Surgery is the long-established therapeutic option for benign thyroid nodules, which steadily grow and become symptomatic. The cost of thyroid surgery, the risk of temporary or permanent complications, and the effect on quality of life, however, remain relevant concerns. Therefore, various minimally invasive treatments, directed towards office-based management of symptomatic nodules, without requiring general anaesthesia, and with negligible damage to the skin and cervical tissues, have been proposed during the past two decades. Today, ultrasound-guided percutaneous ethanol injection and thermal ablation with laser or radiofrequency have been thoroughly evaluated, and are accessible procedures in specialized centres. In clinical practice, relapsing thyroid cysts are effectively managed with percutaneous ethanol injection treatment, which should be considered therapy of choice. In solid non-functioning thyroid nodules that grow or become symptomatic, trained operators may safely induce, with a single session of laser ablation treatment or radiofrequency ablation, a 50% volume decrease and, in parallel, improve local symptoms. In contrast, hyperfunctioning nodules remain best treated with radioactive iodine, which results in a better control of hyperthyroidism, also in the long-term, and fewer side-effects. Currently, minimally invasive treatment is also investigated for achieving local control of small size neck recurrences of papillary thyroid carcinoma in patients who are poor candidates for repeat cervical lymph node dissection. This particular use should still be considered experimental.
Best Practice and Research: Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 2014, Vol 28, Issue 4, p. 601-618