Complications of Bilateral Neck Dissection in Thyroid Cancer From a Single High-Volume Center

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Abstract

Importance

The morbidity of bilateral lateral neck dissection (BLND) for thyroid cancers has not been described in detail. This study delineates the specific complications arising from BLND for thyroid cancers at a single high-volume center.

Objective

To determine the morbidity associated with BLNDs for differentiated thyroid cancers at our institution.

Design, Setting, and Participants

This was a retrospective review of medical records performed to identify patients having undergone BLNDs for thyroid cancers by a single surgeon at an academic, tertiary medical center in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, from 1988 to 2015. Patients who underwent BLND for papillary, follicular, or medullary thyroid cancers were identified through operative procedure codes and review of operative and pathology reports. The indication for this procedure was suspicious bilateral lateral compartment on imaging and clinical examination. Sixty-two patients who underwent BLND for thyroid cancers, with or without total thyroidectomy and central compartment dissection, were identified.

Main Outcomes and Measures

The main outcome measures for this study were unanticipated medical or surgical complications during the operation or in the postoperative period. Secondary measures were oncologic outcomes, including regional structural or biochemical recurrence.

Results

Of the 62 patients, 24 were male (39%), and 38 (61%) were female. Their mean age was 46 years (range, 17-80 years). The overall risk of permanent hypoparathyroidism was 37%. There was 1 case of unanticipated permanent recurrent nerve paralysis and 1 case of temporary nerve paresis. Postoperative chyle fistula occurred in 6 cases (10%). There were 3 readmissions within 30 days of surgery, 1 pulmonary embolism, and 1 perioperative mortality. Fifty percent of patients had pN0 contralateral necks despite preoperative clinical suspicion. Four patients were found to have anaplastic thyroid cancers intraoperatively. Five patients (8%) developed nodal recurrence in the neck. Four patients died of their disease within available follow-up (mean, 3.2 years).

Conclusions and Relevance

Bilateral lateral neck dissection for thyroid cancers confers a significant amount of morbidity, including a significant rate of hypoparathyroidism. Knowledge of the complications of this procedure, especially in the setting of questionable survival benefit, may assist in preoperative decision-making and patient counseling.

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