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Am Surg. 1998 Jul;64(7):674-8; discussion 678-9.

Thyroid reoperations: indications and risks.

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  • 1Department of General Surgery, Rush Medical College, Chicago, Illinois 60612-3833, USA.


Thyroid reoperations can be technically difficult and associated with an increased risk of complications. To determine the indications for reoperations and the risk of postoperative complications with these procedures, records of 362 patients undergoing thyroidectomy by a single surgeon (R.A.P.) were reviewed. Thirty-two patients had a reoperation. The group consists of 21 women and 11 men with an average age of 55 years (range, 31-79). Twenty-four patients had 1 prior operation, and 8 patients had 2 or more. We performed 4 of the initial operations, and 28 were done by surgeons at other centers. Fourteen reoperations were done for symptomatic multinodular goiter (MNG), and 5 because of a change in the histologic diagnosis from benign to cancerous. The remainder were for further treatment of malignancy. The most common operation was completion thyroidectomy (31). In 3 patients, either unilateral or bilateral modified radical neck exploration was performed. One patient required median sternotomy. One subtotal thyroidectomy was also performed. Recurrent laryngeal nerve injury occurred in 2 patients. It resolved in 1 patient but was permanent in another, who had 3 operations for MNG. One of the 2 patients with preoperative unilateral vocal cord paralysis had return of function after removal of a substernal goiter. The other had a permanent nerve injury from the original surgery. Three patients had postoperative hypocalcemia (calcium <8.0 mg/dL). This resolved in all patients within 1 to 6 months. One patient who had a third operation for MNG had postoperative hemorrhage necessitating tracheostomy for airway control. Another patient developed a seroma that resolved within 2 months. We conclude that reoperations are indicated for both benign and malignant thyroid disease. Because they carry a higher risk of complications, every effort should be made to avoid them by performing definitive initial treatment.

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