BACKGROUND: Prophylactic surgery for patients carrying a positive RET proto-oncogene proved to be highly effective in curing those likely to experience the development of a medullary carcinoma. Video-assisted procedures have been proved feasible for central compartment dissection.
METHODS: A total of 15 patients (7 men and 8 women) with a positive RET proto-oncogene underwent total thyroidectomy and central compartment lymphadenectomy via a video-assisted approach. The mean age of the patients was 32.5 years. The echographically estimated mean volume was 10.3 ml, and the mean diameter of the main nodule was 8.8 mm. Preoperative ultrasound showed an absence of lateral neck lymph node involvement in all cases. No drain was used. Direct laryngoscopy was performed in all cases 1 month after surgery.
RESULTS: The mean operative time was 67.3 min. A transient hypoparathyroidism occurred in one patient, and a permanent hypoparathyroidism occurred in another patient. No laryngeal nerve palsy was present. All the patients were discharged on postoperative day 1. Histology showed a medullary carcinoma in 10 patients and diffuse C-cell hyperplasia in 5 patients. The mean number of lymph nodes removed was 5.1. None of these nodes proved to be metastatic. Calcitonin levels were undetectable in all six patients who had a follow-up period longer than 1 year.
CONCLUSION: Video-assisted central compartment lymphadenectomy was proved to be effective and safe. The procedure demonstrated a complication rate comparable with that for the conventional procedure, a better cosmetic outcome, and less postoperative pain. Although the video-assisted access proved to be a valid option for the treatment of patients carrying a positive RET proto-oncogene, a greater number of cases with a longer follow-up period is necessary to estimate the impact of the video-assisted approach on central neck lymphadenectomy.
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