Objective: Image-guided interventional ultrasound (US) techniques represent diagnostic and therapeutic tools for non-surgical management of thyroid nodular disease. We sought to investigate the attitude of European Thyroid Association (ETA) members towards the use of minimally invasive techniques (MIT) in diagnosis/therapy of symptomatic nodular goitre.
Methods: ETA members were invited to participate in an online survey investigating the use of MIT in benign and malignant thyroid nodular disease. Of 865 invited members, 221 (25.5%) completed the survey. The respondents were from 40 countries; 139 (74.7%) were from European countries.
Results: Respondents personally performed thyroid US (91.6%), Fine needle aspiration (FNA; 75.3%), ethanol ablation (EA; 22.1%), core needle biopsy (CNB; 11%) and thermal treatments (4.8%). When skills and/or technology were unavailable, only 13.4% referred patients "often" or "always" to other centres with specific expertise in this field. Surgery was the preferred first option in patients with recurrent cysts, 4.0 cm benign nodules, local (radioiodine-avid or non-avid) lymph node metastases, or papillary cancers <1.0 cm. For autonomously functioning nodules radioactive iodine treatment was the preferred choice, followed by surgery. Thermal ablation (TA) was the preferred option only for a 4 cm benign nodule in old patients with comorbidities.
Conclusions: US, US-guided FNA and surgery were available to nearly all respondents, while MIT was not. CNB and EA were employed only by about 1/3 of the respondents and TA procedures were available and personally performed only by a minority. For most thyroid lesions, surgery was the preferred option versus thermal therapies. The ETA needs to develop guidelines and establish teaching to overcome geographic inequality and promote the use of MIT as a valid therapy option in appropriate cases.