Although thermal ablation has been regarded as an alternative treatment option for autonomously functioning thyroid nodules (AFTNs), the efficacy of this treatment in patients with AFTNs has not yet been systematically evaluated. In this systematic review and meta-analysis, we aimed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of thermal ablation in the treatment of AFTN, and identify the factors affecting the effectiveness of the treatment.
Ovid-MEDLINE and Embase databases were searched for studies reporting the efficacy and safety of thermal ablation for patients with AFTN published up until January 6, 2020. Data extraction and quality assessment were performed by two radiologists according to PRISMA guidelines. The primary and secondary outcomes were to yield the pooled proportions of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) normalization and pooled estimates of volume reduction rate (VRR), respectively. Subgroup analyses were performed to identify factors affecting the treatment efficacy.
This systematic review identified 411 AFTNs treated by thermal ablation in 391 patients in 14 studies. TSH normalization was achieved in 71.2% of patients and the volume reduction rate was 69.4% at a mean follow-up period of 12.8 months. No patients experienced hypothyroidism or a life-threatening complication during follow-up. Subgroup analyses according to nodule volume did not find a significant difference in TSH normalization (p = 0.54) or VRR (p = 0.94).
Thermal ablation is an effective and safe treatment method for patients with AFTNs. The nodule volume did not affect the efficacy of thermal ablation, and this result should be considered in future thermal ablation guidelines.
• Thermal ablation has good efficacy and safety in the treatment of autonomously functioning thyroid nodule.
• The efficacy of thermal ablation was not affected by nodule volume.