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Thyroid. 2004 Feb;14(2):125-31.

Percutaneous ethanol injection treatment in benign thyroid lesions: role and efficacy.

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Department of Endocrine, Metabolic Digestive Diseases, Ospedale Region Apostolorum, Albano, Rome, Italy.



To establish the role of percutaneous ethanol injection (PEI) treatment in benign thyroid lesions by evaluating: (1) the long-term efficacy and side effects of the treatment, (2) the factors predictive of efficacy of PEI, and (3) the cost effectiveness of the procedure.


Fifty-eight recurrent cystic nodules, 95 autonomously functioning nodules (AFTN), and 17 hyperfunctioning nodules causing thyrotoxicosis (toxic nodules) were treated by PEI from 1990 to 1996 in our center. Ultrasound (US) and color flow doppler (CFD) examinations were carried out before and after each treatment. In patients with AFTN, serum thyrotropin (TSH), free triiodothyronine (FT3), free thyroxine (FT4), thyroid peroxidase antibody (TPOAb) levels were tested before and after PEI. All patients were independently reexamined by two external reviewers after a minimum follow-up of 5 years (median, 6.9 years).


The median number of treatments was 2.0 (range, 1.0-4.0) for cystic nodules, 4 (range, 2.0-6.0) for AFTN, and 5 (range, 3.0-7.0) for toxic nodules. At the 5-year evaluation cystic nodules showed a volume reduction greater than 75% versus baseline in 86.2% of cases and an improvement of local symptoms in 91.4% of cases. AFTN presented serum TSH within normal limits in 60.0% of patients. Toxic nodules showed a detectable serum TSH and normal FT3 and FT4 values in 35.3% of cases. Two cases of transient dysphonia were observed. In cystic lesions no significant correlation was found between the baseline and the final volume (r2 = 0.17) and no significant predictor of treatment efficacy was found. However, unilocularity was associated with a lower number of treatments than multilocularity (median, 2.0 vs. 3.0). Independent predictors of clinical efficacy in both AFTN and toxic nodules were a baseline volume less than 5.0 mL and a fluid component greater than 30% (odds ratio [OR] = 6.1 and 3.3, respectively).


Most recurrent cystic lesions of the thyroid can be cured by PEI, which should become the first line of treatment. The majority of AFTN and toxic nodules with volume less than 5.0 mL presented a marked volume decrease and normal serum TSH levels when treated by PEI, which seems a valid alternative to clinical follow-up alone in patients refusing 131I. PEI is not indicated in large or toxic nodules, for which 131I is the treatment of choice.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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