, Volume 384, Issue 1, pp 50-53

Complications associated with different surgical approaches to differentiated thyroid carcinoma

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Introduction: With the good prognosis associated with differentiated carcinoma, the morbidity and mortality of different surgical approaches are of crucial importance. Methods: At the Department of Surgery (Virchow Klinikum Berlin), 139 patients who underwent surgery for differentiated thyroid carcinoma between 1979 and 1994 were reviewed, focussing on postoperative complications. In 113 and 18 patients, respectively, primary and completion thyroidectomy was performed. In five patients, less than total thyroidectomy and in three patients only palliative surgery was carried out. We performed thyroidectomy without systematic lymphadenectomy (LAD) in 70 patients (51.1%). In 15 patients (10.8%), lymphadenectomy of the lateral compartment and, in 53 patients (38.1%), central LAD was performed. LAD did not significantly influence survival time in either follicular (n = 42) or papillary carcinoma (n = 97). Results: No patient died because of postoperative complications. Permanent laryngeal nerve palsy occurred in no patients after thyroidectomy without LAD, in one patient after central LAD (1.9%) and in one patient after lateral LAD (6.7%). Transient laryngeal nerve palsy was seen in ten patients [six (8.6%) after thyroidectomy only, two (3.7%) after central LAD and two (13.3%) after lateral LAD] (P = 0.19). Hypocalcemia was distributed equally within the LAD groups: total transient hypocalcemia could be recorded in 54 patients (38.8%), but permanent hypocalcemia occurred only in one patient (0.7%). Postoperative recovery was delayed in patients when a more radical approach was used (P = 0.03). Conclusion: The magnitude of the benefit of LAD in therapy for differentiated thyroid carcinoma is still controversial. This more radical approach is not necessarily accompanied, however, by higher morbidity and mortality.

Received: 30 January 1998 Accepted: 18 July 1998