Comparative Efficacy and Safety of Radiofrequency Ablation and Microwave Ablation in the Treatment of Benign Thyroid Nodules: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Korean J Radiol. 2024 Mar;25(3):301-313. doi: 10.3348/kjr.2023.1004.


Objective: The current body of evidence lacks clarity regarding the comparative efficacy and safety of radiofrequency ablation (RFA) and microwave ablation (MWA) as minimally invasive treatments for benign thyroid nodules. The primary objective of this study is to clarify these concerns.

Materials and methods: A comprehensive search was conducted using the Cochrane Library, Scopus, Europe PMC, and Medline databases until October 10th, 2023, using a combination of relevant keywords. This study incorporated literature that compared RFA and MWA for benign thyroid nodules. The primary outcome was the volume reduction ratio (VRR) from baseline to follow-up. Secondary outcomes were symptom score, cosmetic score, ablation time, major complications rate, hemorrhage, hoarseness, skin burn, cough, and sympathetic nerve injury. We used Risk of Bias in Non-randomized Studies - of Interventions (ROBINS-I) tool to assess the risk of bias in the included studies. We employed random effects models to analyze the standardized mean difference (SMD) and odds ratio for the presentation of outcomes.

Results: Nine studies with 2707 nodules were included. The results of our meta-analysis indicated similar efficacy between RFA and MWA in terms of VRR during the 1 (SMD 0.06; 95% confidence interval [CI]: -0.13 to 0.26; P = 0.52) and 3 (SMD 0.11; 95% CI: -0.03 to 0.25; P = 0.12) months of follow-up. VRR was significantly higher in RFA than in MWA at the 6 (SMD 0.25; 95% CI: 0.06-0.43; P = 0.008) and 12 month of follow-up (SMD 0.38; 95% CI: 0.17 to 0.59; P < 0.001). There were no significant differences between RFA and MWA in symptom scores, cosmetic scores, or the incidence of complications, including hemorrhage, hoarseness, skin burn, cough, and sympathetic nerve injury.

Conclusion: RFA showed a higher VRR than MWA at 6 and 12-month follow-ups, with a comparable safety profile.

Keywords: Ablation; Endocrinology; Minimal-invasive; Oncology; Thyroid.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Burns* / surgery
  • Catheter Ablation* / adverse effects
  • Catheter Ablation* / methods
  • Cough / surgery
  • Hemorrhage
  • Hoarseness / surgery
  • Humans
  • Microwaves / therapeutic use
  • Radiofrequency Ablation* / methods
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Thyroid Nodule* / diagnostic imaging
  • Thyroid Nodule* / surgery
  • Treatment Outcome