The Relationship Between Extent of Thyroid Cancer Surgery and Use of Radioactive Iodine

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To determine the relationships between surgeon recommendations for extent of resection and radioactive iodine use in low-risk thyroid cancer.


There has been an increase in thyroid cancer treatment intensity; the relationship between extent of resection and medical treatment with radioactive iodine remains unknown.


We randomly surveyed thyroid surgeons affiliated with 368 hospitals with Commission on Cancer-accredited cancer programs. Survey responses were linked to the National Cancer Database. The relationship between extent of resection and the proportion of the American Joint Committee on Cancer stage I well-differentiated thyroid cancer patients treated with radioactive iodine after total thyroidectomy was assessed with multivariable weighted regression, controlling for hospital and surgeon characteristics.


The survey response rate was 70% (560/804). Surgeons who recommend total thyroidectomy over lobectomy for subcentimeter unifocal thyroid cancer were significantly more likely to recommend prophylactic central lymph node dissection for thyroid cancer regardless of tumor size (P < 0.001). They were also more likely to favor radioactive iodine in patients with intrathyroidal unifocal cancer ≤1 cm (P = 0.001), 1.1–2 cm (P = 0.004), as well as intrathyroidal multifocal cancer ≤1 cm (P = 0.004). In multivariable analysis, high hospital case volume, fewer surgeon years of experience, general surgery specialty, and preference for more extensive resection were independently associated with greater hospital-level use of radioactive iodine for stage I disease.


In addition to surgeon experience and specialty, surgeons’ tendency to perform more extensive thyroid resection is associated with greater use of radioactive iodine for stage I thyroid cancer.

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