Current Concepts in Endocrine Surgery

Langenbeck's Archives of Surgery

, Volume 393, Issue 5, pp 621-626

First online:

Minimally invasive thyroid and parathyroid surgery is not a question of length of the incision

  • Jean–François HenryAffiliated withDepartment of Endocrine Surgery, University Hospital La Timone Email author 

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Postoperative cosmesis in the neck is often a major concern of patients, particularly women, undergoing thyroid or parathyroid surgery. Therefore, a reduction in the length of the cervical incision, and even more so, having no scar in the neck, is particularly appealing to these patients. Over the last years, many different so-called minimally invasive procedures have been proposed for the treatment of thyroid and parathyroid diseases, the primary aim being to improve the cosmetic results. Nevertheless, the concept of surgical invasiveness cannot be limited to the length or to the site of the skin incision. It must be extended to all structures dissected during the procedure. Therefore, minimally invasive thyroidectomy or minimally invasive parathyroidectomy should properly be defined as operations through a short, less than 3 cm, and discrete incision that permits direct access to the thyroid or parathyroid gland, resulting in a focused dissection. In addition, type of anesthesia, duration of the operation, postoperative pain, complication and success rates, and long-term outcome should also be taken into account to assess surgical invasiveness.


Thyroid and parathyroid operations that minimize the incision but keep it in the neck may be considered minimally invasive not only in respect of the size of the skin incision but also, and above all, in respect of the accessibility of the operative field and extent of dissection. These operations have some advantages over conventional cervicotomy in terms of postoperative pain and cosmetic results. Until now, there is no evidence to state that morbidity of these new approaches is at least equal to the conventional equivalent. Operations that employ an extracervical approach, which have the advantage of leaving no scar in the neck, cannot reasonably be described as minimally invasive, as they require more dissection than conventional open surgery.


Minimally invasive surgery Thyroidectomy Parathyroidectomy