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Thyroid. 2018 Apr;28(4):465-471. doi: 10.1089/thy.2017.0655. Epub 2018 Apr 2.

Quantitative Analysis of the Benefits and Risk of Thyroid Nodule Evaluation in Patients ≥70 Years Old.

Author information

1
1 Department of Thyroid Surgery, the First Hospital of China Medical University , Shenyang, China .
2
2 The Thyroid Section, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Hypertension, The Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School , Boston, Massachusetts.
3
3 Department of Surgery, The Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School , Boston, Massachusetts.
4
4 Department of Pathology, The Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School , Boston, Massachusetts.
5
5 Department of Radiology, The Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School , Boston, Massachusetts.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

In older patients, thyroid nodules are frequently detected and referred for evaluation, though usually prove to be benign disease or low-risk cancer. Therefore, management should be guided not solely by malignancy risk, but also by the relative risks of any intervention. Unfortunately, few such data are available for patients ≥70 years old.

METHODS:

All consecutive patients ≥70 years old assessed by ultrasound (US) and fine-needle aspiration (FNA) between 1995 and 2015 were analyzed. Clinical, US, and histologic data, including patient comorbidities and outcomes, were obtained. Imaging and cytology results from initial evaluation were reviewed to detect significant-risk thyroid cancer (SRTC), which was defined as anaplastic, medullary, or poorly differentiated carcinoma, or the presence of distant metastases. Overall survival analyses were then performed to assist with risk-to-benefit assessment.

RESULTS:

A total of 1129 patients ≥70 years old with 2527 nodules ≥1 cm were evaluated. FNA was safe in all, and cytology proved benign in 67.3% of patients. However, FNA led to surgery in 208 patients, of whom 93 (44.7%) had benign histopathology. Among all patients who underwent FNA, only 17 (1.5%) SRTC were identified, all of which were preoperatively identifiable by imaging and/or cytology. These SRTC were responsible for all (n = 10; 0.9%) thyroid cancer deaths. Among all other patients (n = 1112), 160 deaths (14.4%) were confirmed during a median follow-up of four years. None of these were thyroid cancer related. Survival analysis for these 1112 patients demonstrated that a separate non-thyroidal malignancy or coronary artery disease at the time of nodule evaluation was associated with increased mortality compared to those without these diagnoses (hazard ratio = 2.32 [confidence interval 1.66-3.26]; p < 0.01), confirming these are important variables to identify prior to thyroid nodule evaluation.

CONCLUSIONS:

For patients ≥70 years old, US and FNA are safe and prove helpful in identifying SRTC and benign cytology. However, the surgical management of patients ≥70 years old presenting without high-risk findings should be tempered, especially when comorbid illness is identified.

KEYWORDS:

FNA; complication; elderly; mortality; thyroid cancer; thyroid nodule

PMID:
29608439
DOI:
10.1089/thy.2017.0655

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