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Thyroid. 2009 Nov;19(11):1153-8. doi: 10.1089/thy.2009.0159.

Consensus statement on the terminology and classification of central neck dissection for thyroid cancer.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Section of Endocrine Surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.



The primary goals of this interdisciplinary consensus statement are to review the relevant anatomy of the central neck compartment, to identify the nodal subgroups within the central compartment commonly involved in thyroid cancer, and to define a consistent terminology relevant to the central compartment neck dissection.


The most commonly involved central lymph nodes in thyroid carcinoma are the prelaryngeal (Delphian), pretracheal, and the right and left paratracheal nodal basins. A central neck dissection includes comprehensive, compartment-oriented removal of the prelaryngeal and pretracheal nodes and at least one paratracheal lymph node basin. A designation should be made as to whether a unilateral or bilateral dissection is performed and on which side (left or right) in unilateral cases. Lymph node "plucking" or "berry picking" implies removal only of the clinically involved nodes rather than a complete nodal group within the compartment and is not recommended. A therapeutic central compartment neck dissection implies that nodal metastasis is apparent clinically (preoperatively or intraoperatively) or by imaging (clinically N1a). A prophylactic/elective central compartment dissection implies nodal metastasis is not detected clinically or by imaging (clinically N0).


Central neck dissection at a minimum should consist of removal of the prelaryngeal, pretracheal, and paratracheal lymph nodes. The description of a central neck dissection should include both the indication (therapeutic vs. prophylactic/elective) and the extent of the dissection (unilateral or bilateral).

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