A breakthrough procedure introduced earlier this year at Cabrini Health in Melbourne promises to eliminate the need for surgery for many patients with benign thyroid growths.
Catherine Sinclair is an ENT Surgeon at Cabrini Health. A head and neck surgeon and laryngologist, she numbers areas such as thyroid nodules, thyroid cancer and thyroid radiofrequency ablation among her specialities.
Associate Professor Sinclair worked and studied in the US between 2011 and 2020 before moving her family back to Melbourne in January 2021.
In 2019 she performed the first radiofrequency thyroid nodule ablation at Mount Sinai West in New York, and initiated one of the first thyroid radiofrequency ablation programs in the US.
She has now brought the technique back to Australia.
“It’s pretty life-changing for people who have been so terrified of needing thyroid hormone after surgery,” A/prof Sinclair says.
“The risk of needing thyroid hormones after ablation of the thyroid modules, as opposed to surgery, is virtually non-existent.”
About half of Australians over 50 have benign thyroid nodules, but as most don’t have symptoms many may not even know they’re there.
In other cases, the nodules can get big enough to cause problems such as trouble swallowing or breathing, hoarseness or voice change, neck pain or goiters.
Radiofrequency ablation uses heat to target benign thyroid mass.
The procedure takes only about 20 minutes to target a benign thyroid mass, which will then shrink over time, and is an alternative to invasive surgery that can leave a scar and the risk of lifelong thyroid problems.
Patient Rita says she had a persistent cough last year, and was the first in Australia to undergo the procedure.
She says it was quick and there were virtually no complications during recovery.