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Eur J Surg Oncol. 1995 Oct;21(5):478-81.

Total thyroidectomy in the treatment of thyroid cancer.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, San Raffaele Hospital, Milan, Italy.


Considerable controversy exists about the most appropriate treatment for thyroid cancer. In this report the authors present their experience of 189 patients, all of whom had a total thyroidectomy between June 1980 and December 1993. The age of the patients ranged from 11 to 78 years (mean age: 42 years), there were 144 women and 45 men. Histological types were: 146 papillary, 16 medullary, 10 follicular, eight Hurtle, six insular and three undifferentiated. Coexistent lesions included: 22 thyroiditis, 17 adenomas, one Graves' disease and 22 benign goitre. Fifty-six (29.6%) patients had multifocal papillary cancer (bilateral in 45 cases). Surgical complications included 20 cases of transient recurrent laryngeal nerve palsy, 16 cases of transient and one of permanent hypoparathyroidism, and one respiratory obstruction due to bilateral recurrent laryngeal nerve palsy that required temporary tracheostomy. Two patients were reoperated on due to bleeding. Ninety per cent of patients were discharged within 3 days of thyroidectomy. One hundred and fifty patients were evaluated for 131I treatment by a standardized dosimetry procedure 4 weeks after surgery. Dosimetry was also used to calculate therapeutic 131I doses. Seventy-six patients did not show a 131I uptake above background levels, 56 underwent therapeutic 131I, while in the 18 patients who showed an abnormal uptake of 131I it was decided not to give the therapeutic dose. The authors conclude that total thyroidectomy can be performed with a minimum of permanent disability in patients with malignant thyroid tumours. The theoretical and practical advantages of this kind of surgical strategy make it the treatment of choice for thyroid cancer.

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