Total versus hemithyroidectomy for small unilateral papillary thyroid carcinoma

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The correct approach to treat low-risk intrathyroidal papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) is controversial. Specific authors advocate unilateral thyroidectomy to minimize perioperative morbidity. The purpose of the present study was to determine an effective treatment strategy for patients with small unilateral papillary thyroid. This was a retrospective comparative analysis of 161 patients with PTC treated between 2001-2010; 60 consecutive patients following hemithyroidectomy and 101 patients following total thyroidectomy. Only patients with preoperatively-predicted localized unilateral disease were included. No between-group difference was identified in the rate of permanent surgical complications. In total, 36 hemithyroidectomy patients (60%) exhibited benign thyroid nodules in the contralateral lobe on preoperative ultrasound; this factor was found to positively correlate with the performance of >/=1 fine needle aspirations (FNAs) during follow-up. In addition, 47 hemithyroidectomy patients (78.3%) were prescribed thyroxine postoperatively. The hemithyroidectomy patients visited the endocrine clinic significantly less frequently than the total thyroidectomy patients (P=0.01), but were referred more often for neck ultrasound (P=0.03) and FNA (P<0.001). In addition, an increased number of patients in the hemithyroidectomy group were reoperated for suspected recurrent/persistent disease (P=0.06). Results of this retrospective study indicate that hemithyroidectomy for small unilateral PTC is associated with a significant follow-up burden and provides no clear patient benefit.




Hirsch, D., Levy, S., Tsvetov, G., Shimon, I., & Benbassat, C. (2014). Total versus hemithyroidectomy for small unilateral papillary thyroid carcinoma. Oncology Letters, 7(3), 849–853.

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