Finally Non-invasive: Thyroid nodules are treated with ultrasound for the first time in Germany

The first ultrasound treatment of thyroid tissue in Germany has been performed at Frankfurt University Hospital. Ultrasound waves eliminate the diseased tissue underneath the skin without damaging the skin itself.

Almost 20 % of the German population has one or several thyroid nodules. The induced enlargement of the thyroid can be very uncomfortable for affected patients: a feeling of a lump in the throat, an unpleasant feeling of pressure, hoarseness or a constant desire to clear the throat are possible consequences of the enlargement. For the first time in Germany, Frankfurt University Hospital has applied a high-tech method that was originally developed in France and removes the nodules very carefully. In contrast to other treatment options, no opening of the skin or body is necessary. A High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) is pointed at the thyroid nodule from outside, tissue death and degradation is induced by the created heat. “Only the thyroid nodule is destroyed, the healthy thyroid tissue is spared and keeps its normal function”, explains Prof. Frank Gruenwald, Director of the Department for Nuclear Medicine at the University Hospital.

Nodules are heated like underneath a magnifying glasses

Ultrasound waves are used in various areas such as examinations during pregnancy. For HIFU therapy however, the waves are used in a much higher concentration. A special device focuses the ultrasound waves accurately on a specific point, similar to sun rays through a magnifying glass. Thus, tissue is heated locally, quickly and intensively to about 85 °C without damaging the skin above or the surrounding tissue. The heating destroys the cells of the thyroid nodule which are removed by the body itself afterwards. The ultrasound probe can be used for treatment performance and surveillance at the same time. The treatment takes place on an out-patient basis under local anaesthesia, skin incision or general anaesthesia is not necessary. Therefore patients can be discharged shortly after the treatment and are not limited in any way. Depending on the nodule size the treatment lasts between 15 and 45 minutes.

Frankfurt’s Department for Nuclear Medicine is an international pioneer in the treatment of thyroid diseases

The HIFU technology has already been used for diseases of the breast, uterus and the prostate. For the first time in Germany, the Frankfurt medical team consisting of senior physician Dr. Marco Etzel and PD Dr. Dr. Huedayi Korkusuz, has performed this therapy for the thyroid. They treated patients with hot and cold nodules successfully. They are also involved in the further development of these techniques.

The Department for Nuclear Medicine at Frankfurt University Hospital is counted among the leading clinics concerning the development and application of new therapy options for treatment of thyroid nodules as an alternative to thyroid surgery. Beside this ultrasound treatment and the already established radioiodine therapy, the removal of nodules by Microwave Ablation is offered.