Your Health Questions Answered

What Are the Best New Thyroid Disease Treatments Available in Sarasota?

Thyroid expert Dr. Ralph Tufano shares two new treatment options for thyroid nodules and cancer.

By Allison Forsyth March 2, 2022

Thyroid Graphic

Image: Gigi Ortwein

Sarasota Memorial Hospital's new interdisciplinary treatment center for thyroid and parathyroid disease opened in August 2021 under medical director and thyroid/parathyroid surgeon Dr. Ralph Tufano and endocrinologist Dr. Mark Lupo.

According to the American Thyroid Association, 20 million Americans are living with some form of thyroid disease, and up to 60 percent of those with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition.

"Both thyroid and parathyroid illness are vexing and challenging conditions for both patients and physicians," says Tufano. "If you come to our center, there are several personalized care options."

Tufano practiced at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore before coming to Sarasota Memorial, where he headed a team that conducted a new minimally-invasive thyroid surgery leaving very little scarring. The approach involves making three small incisions under the lower lip and then using an endoscopic instrument to get to the thyroid gland.

Below, Tufano tells us more about thyroid conditions and treatments.

What constitutes a thyroid condition?

When the thyroid gland makes too many or too few hormones, there comes a point in time where a number of autoimmune diseases can occur, and medical attention is necessary.

Tufano says some of the most common thyroid problems are nodules, or little bumps on the thyroid gland. They are benign the majority of the time, but sometimes can be cancerous. At SMH, physicians can evaluate nodules via ultrasound and decide whether to order a biopsy.

What do treatments for thyroid conditions look like?

"If the biopsy indicates a nodule is cancerous, it must be removed through surgery or with radiation therapy," says Tufano. "There's a new treatment for benign nodules that are causing difficult swallowing, however. It's called radiofrequency ablation."

This procedure consists of inserting the tip of a needle into the nodule and applying heat, causing it to reduce in size. It is done in-office with Novocaine and has little effect on the thyroid function. After a 30-minute procedure and 15-minute post-op brief, patients are ready to return home.

Does insurance cover these new treatments?

Tufano, who was the first surgeon to use the scarless thyroid surgery in the U.S. in 2019, says most insurance companies have begun to cover them. There is medical reason for surgery when the question of cancer is in the mix.

The radio frequency ablation is not yet covered by insurance; however, Tufano is working with insurers to understand the value it has for patients.

Who benefits from these treatments?

If you have a thyroid condition that requires surgery, but you know you scar easily and are concerned, these treatment options might be beneficial. Tufano says the options might also benefit those already working with an endocrinologist and primary care doctor to treat their thyroid symptoms, but are at their wits' end.

"We want to empower patients to know more about the disease and be their own best health care advocates," says Tufano. "This treatment center is the place where cutting edge technology, expertise and best outcomes are available."

For more information on Sarasota Memorial's thyroid and parathyroid treatment center, click here or call (941) 262-0500.

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