Impact of central node dissection on postoperative morbidity in pediatric patients with suspected or proven thyroid cancer

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Pediatric risk factors for postoperative morbidity after central node dissection are ill-defined.


This outcome study aimed to evaluate operative morbidity in patients aged ≤18 years after total thyroidectomy with or without central node dissection for suspected or proven thyroid cancer.


Included were 102 patients with hereditary C-cell hyperplasia, 66 patients with medullary, 60 patients with papillary, and 2 patients with follicular thyroid cancer. In all 230 patients, 131 of whom underwent central node dissection, transient recurrent laryngeal nerve palsy was significantly associated only with central node dissection (100% vs 55%; P = .010). Transient and permanent hypoparathyroidism were significantly associated with age (means of 11.9 years versus 7.8 years, and 12.9 years versus 8.5 years; P ≤ .002); central node dissection (80% vs 50%, and 100% vs 54%; P ≤ .001); and the number of central lymph nodes cleared (means of 12.2 nodes versus 5.4 nodes, and 26.9 nodes versus 5.8 nodes, P < .001). These effects were stronger for permanent than transient hypoparathyroidism. Correlations between permanent hypoparathyroidism and the number of nodes cleared on central node dissection (r = 0.35) were closer than those between permanent hypoparathyroidism and age (r = 0.15), but similar for transient hypoparathyroidism (r = 0.22 and r = 0.25).


Owing to the incremental morbidity from central node dissection, the extent of a neck operation, in experienced hands, should be tailored to the extent of the underlying disease regardless of the child's age. The notion that the experience of the center and surgeons may be more important than the age of the child requires validation in independent series across different health care settings.

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