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Ann Surg. 1981 Jun;193(6):769-76.

Surgical intervention in chronic (Hashimoto's) thyroiditis.


The incidence of chronic (Hashimoto's) thyroiditis in surgical specimens is relatively high, i.e., 13% in collected studies, for a disease with clinical and laboratory characteristics that are sufficiently specific, that thyroidectomy should rarely be required for diagnosis or treatment. This incidence is presumably related to the difficulty in distinguishing between thyroiditis and a thyroid neoplasm. Experience with 260 thyroidectomies at the North Carolina Memorial Hospital performed between 1875 and 1980 for a dominant thyroid mass was reviewed to determine the reliability of criteria for diagnosis and the indications for surgical treatment. Using the criteria of clinical findings, complemented by laboratory studies, e.g., free thyroxine index, thyroid autoantibodies, TSH level, thyroid scan, in addition to the judicious use of the cutting (core) needle biopsy procedure, the incidence of Hashimoto's thyroiditis in this series was 3% and cancer-27%. Four patients had Hashimoto's thyroiditis coincidental to another disease for which thyroidectomy was performed. In seven patients Hashimoto's thyroiditis alone constituted the indications for operation. The indications for operation in these patients were: autonomous function with mild hyperthyroidism (2 patients); associated cold nodule (2 patients); thyromegaly unresponsive to suppressive therapy (2 patients); and rapidly enlarging mass simulating a neoplasm (1 patient). Only one of 71 patients with well differentiated carcinoma had Hashimoto's thyroiditis. One patient with Hashimoto's thyroiditis had associated lymphoma. In most patients, Hashimoto's thyroiditis can be identified using appropriate clinical and laboratory criteria without resorting to thyroidectomy to differentiate between thyroiditis and a neoplasm. Operations are indicated in patients with suspected or established chronic thyroiditis for: 1) the presence of a dominant mass with incomplete regression on suppressive therapy. 2) Progression of thyromegaly despite suppressive therapy. 3) Historic or physical findings suggest a malignancy, e.g., irradiation, multiple endocrine adenomatosis (MEA) syndrome, nerve paralysis, pain, tracheal compression, stipple calcification and cervical lymph node enlargement. 4) Indeterminant findings on cutting needle biopsy, e.g., lymphoma versus thyroiditis. Rarely, an operation is required for an oppressive goiter or associated hyperthyroidism.

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