Reeta Dhar Becomes the First Australian to Receive Breakthrough Thyroid RFA Procedure

Updated: Sep 29, 2021

Reported by Channel Seven News


2020 was already a year full of twists and turns and for the co-founder of Wise As Stories, Reeta Dhar, life had a few more curveballs to serve.

What started as a mild cough whilst she was working on her first children's book, Willow the Wonderer, became a fixture in her life towards the end of 2020, impacting her speech.

A series of diagnostics and consultations later doctors confirmed she had a growth in her left thyroids. Thankfully biopsies confirmed it to be benign.

Thyroid 'nodules' are a relatively common condition that will impact ~half of the adult population.


In Reeta's case the nodule, although benign, had grown large enough to impact the trachea and was likely causing the impulse to cough. The treatment - a major operation to remove half her thyroids (hemi thyroidectomy) that came with a 30% risk of developing underactive thyroids and having to be reliant on a hormone replacement pill for the rest of her life.

Faced with the prospective of major surgery and risk of complications that this encompasses, Reeta and Darren slowed down the launch of Willow and focused on finding an alternative.

The universe came to the rescue just in time as she came across a brilliant and innovative Head and Neck surgeon, A/Prof Catherine Sinclair. Dr Sinclair had just relocated from New York to Australia and brought with her a novel procedure called Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA) of thyroid nodules.

RFA is a very targeted procedure done under ultrasound and involves ablation of the thyroid nodules using very controlled amounts of energy. The ablated nodule reduces in volume over the next 1-12 months, removing the need for surgery.

It's done as a day surgery under local anesthetic, removing risks posed by general anesthetic. Given it's targeted nature, the surrounding healthy thyroid tissues don't get impacted, removing the risk of developing underactive thyroid. Further, recovery time is 24 hours versus the 2-3 weeks following a thyroidectomy, which also comes with risks of complications and of course scarring on the neck.

All in all, the clinical outcomes offered by RFA were much superior and to Reeta it was a "no brainer" to opt for the RFA even if it meant she was going to be the first Australian to be undergoing the procedure, had to fly to Melbourne to get it done and had to pay for the procedure out-of-pocket (it's novelty means that neither Medicare or Private Health Insurance currently has an 'item code' for the procedure).

RFA of thyroid nodules has been practiced in Italy and South Korea for over a decade with hundreds of study done regarding risks and efficacy. It had only been recently started

Given the novelty of the treatment and the high public interest, Channel Seven covered the story on the day of the operation. It aired in Melbourne on the 8th of May and Sydney on the 9th of May - see video below.

Reeta's final reflection on the treatment, "I am utterly grateful to Dr Sinclair, a brilliant and innovative surgeon, for bringing this treatment with it's vastly superior clinical outcomes to Australia. I felt safe in her care and of that of the wonderful nurses at Cabrini Hospital (where the procedure was performed).
 

For more information on RFA treatment please refer to A/Professor Sinclair's website.

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