Aesthetics in Thyroid Surgery: The Patient Perspective

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To define characteristics that influence patient perceptions of thyroidectomy scar cosmesis.

Study Design

Prospective cohort study.


Tertiary endocrine surgery practice in an academic medical center.

Subjects and Methods

Institutional review board–approved trial in which 136 subjects were recruited from a population of patients being seen for either thyroid or sinus surgery and evaluated standardized photographs, superimposed with computer-generated thyroidectomy scars of varying lengths (2, 4, and 6 cm) and widths (1 and 2 mm), and graded their perception of the scars using the observer scar assessment scale (OSAS) domains of the patient and observer scar assessment scale.


There were 69 subjects in the thyroid group and 67 in the nonthyroid group. Controlling for width, longer scars were perceived as worse than shorter scars; controlling for length, thicker scars were perceived as worse than thinner scars (P < .01). Beyond 2 cm, thick scars were judged to be worse than thin scars, even when they were shorter. There was no difference in the mean overall OSAS scores between surgery, sex, or age groups. Nonwhites tended to judge scars as being worse than whites did (P < .01).


As expected, patients of all demographics prefer shorter scars compared with longer scars and thinner scars over thick scars. Ethnic differences in scar perception were identified and deserve additional study. Surgeons should endeavor to perform thyroid surgery through the smallest incision that allows the operation to be performed safely to minimize the cosmetic impact of the operation.

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