Indeterminate thyroid nodules: A challenge for the surgical strategy

Section of Endocrine Surgery, Division of General Surgery, Department of General Surgery, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.
Surgery (Impact Factor: 3.38). 03/2010; 148(3):516-25. DOI: 10.1016/j.surg.2010.01.020
Source: PubMed


Because no clinical parameter can establish the final status of a cytologically indeterminate thyroid nodule (ITN) or nodal-metastases in case of malignancy, the initial surgical strategy should define an oncologically adequate procedure with low morbidity.
The prognostic relevance of sex, age, tumor sizes, multifocality, thyroid function, and recurrence was analyzed in 156 consecutive patients according to the presence of malignancy and nodal metastases. The accuracy of frozen sections to reveal malignancy was determined. Clinical parameters were compared with regard to their ability to identify malignancy and nodal metastases in an ITN to determine an appropriate initial operative strategy.
One hundred and eighteen (75.6%) patients underwent (total) thyroidectomy, 37 (23.7%) patients underwent hemithyroidectomy, and 1 patient underwent isthmus resection. Fifty-five (35.3%) patients showed malignancy. First step lymphadenectomy (lymph node dissection along the recurrent laryngeal nerve before removing the thyroid lobe) was performed in 142 patients documenting 10 nodal metastases. Comparing benign and malignant ITN, no association was found for sex (P = .17), age (P = 1.0), tumor sizes (P = .33, P = .12, P = .19 for < or =30 mm, < or =40 mm, and < or =50 mm, respectively), or thyroid function (P = .26). The determination of malignancy by frozen section showed a sensitivity of 30.9% and a specificity of 100%. No permanent hypoparathyroidism or recurrent laryngeal nerve palsy was observed postoperatively.
Because of the failure of available clinical parameters to predict malignancy in cytologically ITN, hemithyroidectomy in unilateral goiter and thyroidectomy in bilateral goiter is recommended. Ipsilateral "first step central neck dissection" on the side of ITN offers the advantages of oncologically adequate resection and staging with a low morbidity, as well as avoids reoperation.

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