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A Study on Nonthermal Irreversible Electroporation of the Thyroid



Nonthermal irreversible electroporation is a minimally invasive surgery technology that employs high and brief electric fields to ablate undesirable tissues. Nonthermal irreversible electroporation can ablate only cells while preserving intact functional properties of the extracellular structures. Therefore, nonthermal irreversible electroporation can be used to ablate tissues safely near large blood vessels, the esophagus, or nerves. This suggests that it could be used for thyroid ablation abutting the esophagus. This study examines the feasibility of using nonthermal irreversible electroporation for thyroid ablation.


Rats were used to evaluate the effects of nonthermal irreversible electroporation on the thyroid. The procedure entails the delivery of high electric field pulses (1-3 kV/cm, 100 microseconds) between 2 surface electrodes bracing the thyroid. The right lobe was treated with various nonthermal irreversible electroporation pulse sequences, and the left was the control. After 24 hours of the nonthermal irreversible electroporation treatment, the thyroid was examined with hemotoxylin and eosin histological analysis. Mathematical models of electric fields and the Joule heating-induced temperature raise in the thyroid were developed to examine the experimental results.


Treatment with nonthermal irreversible electroporation leads to follicular cells damage, associated with cell swelling, inflammatory cell infiltration, and cell ablation. Nonthermal irreversible electroporation spares the trachea structure. Unusually high electric fields, for these types of tissue, 3000 V/cm, are needed for thyroid ablation. The mathematical model suggests that this may be related to the heterogeneous structure of the thyroid-induced distortion of local electric fields. Moreover, most of the tissue does not experience thermal damage inducing temperature elevation. However, the heterogeneous structure of the thyroid may cause local hot spots with the potential for local thermal damage.


Nonthermal irreversible electroporation with 3000 V/cm can be used for thyroid ablation. Possible applications are treatment of hyperthyroidism and thyroid cancer. The highly heterogeneous structure of the thyroid distorts the electric fields and temperature distribution in the thyroid must be considered when designing treatment protocols for this tissue type.

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