World Journal of Surgery

, Volume 32, Issue 7, pp 1278–1284 | Cite as

Evidence-based Management of Toxic Multinodular Goiter (Plummer’s Disease)

  • John R. PorterfieldJr.
  • Geoffrey B. Thompson
  • David R. Farley
  • Clive S. Grant
  • Melanie L. RichardsEmail author



Toxic multinodular goiter (Plummer’s disease) has posed challenges to surgeons, endocrinologists, and radiation oncologists since its description in 1913. A literature review with evidenced-based methodology has not yet been reported.


A systematic review of the English literature from 1950 to 2007 and report of Mayo Clinic experience since 1950 was undertaken to establish evidence-based recommendations for management.


Surgery and radioactive iodine (RI) are both supported by level IV evidence in the treatment of solitary toxic nodules and toxic multinodular goiter, and treatment is determined by symptoms and co-morbidities. No evidence suggests a difference in treatment outcome based on pretreatment clinical or subclinical hyperthyroidism. Level IV evidence supports thyroidectomy over RI for large goiters. When compressive symptoms are present, level IV evidence supports thyroidectomy for maximal symptom relief in patients at moderate risk. Occult malignancies are found in 2–3% of thyroidectomy specimens for Plummer’s disease. Despite technical reports of RI dose considerations, there are no prospective studies validating a dose formula. Ethanol ablation of toxic nodules in patients unfit for surgery is supported by level III evidence. Level V data suggest a cost benefit favoring surgery.


Treatment of Plummer’s disease with antithyroid medications, ethanol ablation, RI ablation, or surgery must balance the goals of therapy, durability of cure, relief of symptoms, risk of malignancy, and risk of complications. Between 1950 and 2006, 948 (70%) of 1,356 patients with Plummer’s disease have been treated surgically at Mayo Clinic.


Goiter Thyroid Stimulate Hormone Radioactive Iodine Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve Injury Subclinical Hyperthyroidism 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Special thanks to Linda L. Haigh and Michelle A. Neseth for their assistance in preparing the final manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Société Internationale de Chirurgie 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • John R. PorterfieldJr.
    • 1
  • Geoffrey B. Thompson
    • 1
  • David R. Farley
    • 1
  • Clive S. Grant
    • 1
  • Melanie L. Richards
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of SurgeryMayo ClinicRochesterUSA

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