Having percutaneous ablation

Percutaneous ablation for thyroid nodules

Percutaneous ablation is a procedure where we use an electric current to heat nodules (lumps) on your thyroid and destroy them.

Preparing for the procedure

Before the procedure, you have a pre-assessment appointment. We give you all the details about preparing for the procedure and you can ask questions.

At the pre-assessment appointment, we:

  • ask about your current health and any past health problems or treatments
  • do tests to make sure that you are well enough for the procedure

You might also need blood tests, a detailed neck ultrasound scan and a biopsy (when we take a sample of tissue for testing).

We explain:

  • when to stop eating and drinking (fast) before the procedure
  • what to bring with you
  • when to come to the hospital (please arrive 15 minutes before your appointment to allow time to prepare)

If you need a hoist (piece of medical equipment to help lift or move you safely), transport or a translator, please tell us in advance.

You need to arrange for an adult to take you home after the procedure and stay with you overnight while you recover.

We might ask you to stop taking some medicines before the procedure. For example, blood-thinning medicines might affect the procedure and you usually need to stop them for a temporary period.

It is helpful to bring a list of all your medicines to the pre-assessment appointment. This includes anything that you buy from a pharmacy or shop, and any herbal or homeopathic medicines.

We want to involve you in decisions about your care and treatment. If you decide to have percutaneous ablation, we will ask you to sign a consent form on the day of the procedure. This says that you agree to have the treatment and understand what it involves.

If you would like more information about our consent process, please speak to a member of staff caring for you.

During the consent process, you can talk to us about the risks of the procedure.

During the procedure

You have percutaneous ablation under a local anaesthetic. This means that you are awake for the procedure but do not feel pain.

The procedure takes up to 1 hour.

What happens during the procedure

  1. We put a needle through a small cut (incision) in your skin and into the thyroid. An ultrasound scan guides us to put the needle in the correct position.
  2. An interventional radiologist (IR doctor) does the procedure and monitors the treatment on the ultrasound screen. They do several small ablations. This is when the electric current from the needle heats the thyroid nodules to high temperatures and destroys them.
  3. When the procedure is finished, the IR doctor removes the needle and covers the small cut with a plaster.

How the procedure feels

Percutaneous ablation is a relatively pain-free procedure.

We inject a local anaesthetic medicine. This can sting until it makes the area numb.

We monitor you throughout the procedure to make sure that you are comfortable. If needed, we can give you more painkillers.

Resource number: 5242/VER2
Last reviewed: August 2023
Next review due: August 2026

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