Radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive treatment for various medical conditions. It uses tiny needles or flexible, hollow tubes (catheters) to deliver waves of heat energy into the body.
Rush specialists use this procedure to treat problems from head to toe. For example, radiofrequency ablation can do the following:
- Damage nerves that carry pain signals, to reduce chronic pain
- Destroy abnormal or precancerous cells
- Destroy or shrink tissue that’s pressing against blood vessels, nerves or other structures
- Permanently close faulty veins, so blood can no longer flow through them
- Shrink cancerous tumors
- Shrink fibroids, nodules, lumps or other growths
Benefits of Radiofrequency Ablation
For many people, radiofrequency ablation is a safe, effective alternative to surgery.
Your provider can reach the area needing treatment by inserting a needle through your skin or gently advancing a catheter through a blood vessel. They can see exactly where to place the needle or move the catheter — and apply heat energy — by using imaging technology for guidance.
Because your provider doesn’t need to cut into your body, you can expect a faster and less painful recovery. Other benefits of radiofrequency ablation include the following:
- You probably won’t need anesthesia: In most cases, we use a combination of topical (applied to the skin) and injectable numbing medicines to keep you comfortable. You may also receive oral (taken by mouth) medication to help you relax.
- You can go home the same day: Most patients who have radiofrequency ablation do not need to stay overnight in the hospital.
- You’ll have very little downtime: Most patients are able to return to their normal activities the next day.
- You won’t have a noticeable scar: Any incision we need to make (for example, to insert a catheter) is so tiny, it can heal on its own without stitches.
Your Rush provider will let you know if radiofrequency ablation is an option for you.
Thyroid Radiofrequency Ablation and More
The number of medical conditions that can be treated with radiofrequency ablation continues to grow.
Radiofrequency Ablation for Thyroid Nodules
Until recently, the only treatment for certain thyroid conditions, including thyroid nodules, was surgery. Now, however, Rush thyroid experts can treat these problems in just 30-60 minutes using radiofrequency ablation.
You may be a candidate for thyroid radiofrequency ablation if you have the following:
- One or more noncancerous (benign) or “indeterminate” thyroid nodules that are growing in size and causing symptoms
- A nodule that makes too much thyroid hormone (also known as a toxic thyroid nodule), which can cause hyperthyroidism
- An enlarged thyroid gland that contains several nodules (multinodular goiter)
Thyroid radiofrequency ablation can significantly shrink these nodules. Depending on your condition, this means the following:
- You’ll have fewer symptoms caused by nodules pressing against the throat. These include swallowing problems, hoarseness, breathing issues and more.
- Any toxic nodules will no longer produce excess thyroid hormone, reducing (or eliminating) your need for medication.
- Any lumps in your neck will be less visible.
Other Conditions Treated With Radiofrequency Ablation
Rush offers radiofrequency ablation for many other symptoms and conditions, too.
These include the following:
- Atrial fibrillation (Afib)
- Back pain
- Facial nerve disorders, including trigeminal neuralgia
- Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
- Gastrointestinal cancers, including cancer of the liver, pancreas and kidney
- Neck pain
- Uterine fibroids
- Varicose veins
Your provider will let you know whether your results will be permanent, or if you’ll need additional radiofrequency ablation treatments in the future.
Rush Excellence in Radiofrequency Ablation
- Among the best in the U.S.: Several Rush programs that offer radiofrequency ablation are ranked among the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. These include our programs in otorhinolaryngology, head and neck surgery, heart care, neurology and neurosurgery and orthopedic care. This achievement confirms that you can expect safe, high-quality care and better-than-average outcomes at Rush.
- A leader in thyroid care: Not only is Rush home to some of the busiest and most experienced thyroid surgeons in Chicago, we’re also the first local medical center to offer radiofrequency ablation for thyroid nodules. So when you turn to our team for thyroid care, you have the full range of treatment options at your disposal.
- An advanced ablation option for AFib: If your provider has recommended radiofrequency ablation to treat your atrial fibrillation, you can count on Rush for innovative care. Our electrophysiologists were among the first in Illinois to use the HeartLight Endoscopic Ablation System, which allows them to see inside a beating heart while delivering heat energy through a catheter. This enhanced visualization means surgeons can better pinpoint — and apply laser heat to — the precise area of your heart that produces abnormal electrical signals.