Prospective evaluation of total thyroidectomy versus ipsilateral versus bilateral central neck dissection in patients with clinically node–negative papillary thyroid carcinoma

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Prophylactic central neck dissection (PCND) for papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) is controversial. We compared 3 different approaches to the management of central compartment nodes in patients with clinically unifocal and N0 PTC.


A total of 186 patients were prospectively assigned to one of the following procedures: total thyroidectomy (TT), TT plus ipsilateral PCND (Ipsi-PCND), and TT plus bilateral PCND (Bil-PCND).


No difference was found concerning demographic, clinical or pathologic characteristics (P = NS). More patients in the Bil-PCND group had transient hypocalcemia (P < .001). One patient in the Bil-PCND group experienced permanent hypoparathyroidism (P = NS). One transient and one permanent unilateral laryngeal nerve palsy occurred in the Ipsi-PCND group (P = NS). Significantly more patients in the Bil-PCND and Ipsi-PCND groups had node metastases recognized (26 vs 18 vs 6; P < .001). Six of 26 pN1 patients (23%) in the Bil-PCND group had bilateral metastases. No difference was found concerning mean postoperative basal and stimulated thyroglobulin and mean postoperative radioiodine uptake. One patient in the Ipsi-PCND group experienced recurrent disease (P = NS).


TT seems adequate treatment for most patients with clinically N0 PTC. PCND could be considered for a more accurate staging. Ipsi-PCND could be a valid option, but it includes the risk of overlooking contralateral metastases.

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