Send to

Choose Destination
J Ther Ultrasound. 2017 May 17;5:11. doi: 10.1186/s40349-017-0091-1. eCollection 2017.

High intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) ablation of benign thyroid nodules - a systematic review.

Author information

Department of Surgery, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, SAR China.
Department of Surgery, Division of Endocrine Surgery, Queen Mary Hospital, 102 Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong, SAR China.



With an increasing number of imaging studies being done nowadays, the number of incidentally discovered thyroid nodules is expected to rise. Although many of these nodules are small and benign in nature, some do grow and may cause pressure and/or thyrotoxic symptoms. Surgical resection has traditionally been recommended for symptomatic nodules but is associated with risk of hypothyroidism, bleeding, infection, and nerve damage. High intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) is one of the non-surgical thermal ablation techniques that may serve as an alternative in the treatment of benign thyroid nodules. The present review is to systematically evaluate the efficacy and safety of HIFU ablation.


We comprehensively searched all studies that evaluated the use of HIFU ablation as a treatment of benign thyroid nodules from Medline (PubMed) and Cochrane Library electronic databases using specific keywords. All titles identified by the search strategy were independently screened by two authors. Case reports, animal studies, editorials, expert opinions, reviews without original data and studies on pediatric population were excluded. Multiple reports of the same dataset were assessed and the most representative and updated report of a study was included.


Five original studies were found. All treated thyroid nodules were confirmed to be benign cytologically and either appeared solid or predominantly (>70%) solid on ultrasonography. Only one type of commercially available US-guided device with an extracorporeal probe (3 MHz) was used in all the reported treatments. No major complications including recurrent laryngeal nerve injury, skin burn or haematoma were reported in all of the studies. The overall nodule volume reduction after single session of HIFU ablation ranged between 45 and 68%, depending on nodule size and length of follow-up.


Despite the few number of studies, our review appeared to suggest that HIFU is a safe and efficacious method of treating symptomatic benign thyroid nodules. However, larger-scale, prospective trials with longer follow-up period are indeed required to confirm this. In terms of the ablation itself, relative to other ablation techniques, there are still much room for improvements in shortening treatment duration and expanding the range of treatable nodules.


Focused ultrasound; High intensity focused ultrasound; Thermal ablation; Thyroid nodules; Thyroidectomy

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for BioMed Central Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center