Routine central lymph node dissection with total thyroidectomy for papillary thyroid cancer potentially minimizes level VI recurrence

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Treatment strategies for papillary thyroid cancer remain controversial due to the lack of large, randomized controlled trials. The purpose of this study was to review the benefit of routine bilateral central lymph node dissection (CLND) by analyzing local recurrence and complication rates from a single institution over a 15-year period.


A retrospective, institutional review board–approved review of the Baylor Scott & White Tumor Registry was performed on all patients who underwent operation for papillary thyroid cancer between 2000 and 2015. Patients were evaluated by age, sex, tumor size, operation performed, pathologic findings, adjuvant therapy, and date of recurrence. Primary outcomes were cancer recurrence, recurrent laryngeal nerve injury, and hypoparathyroidism.


Total thyroidectomy with CLND was performed in 266 patients. Metastases to level VI lymph nodes were present in 106/266 (39.8%) patients. Average follow-up after thyroidectomy was 46 months (range 1–125 months). Papillary thyroid cancer recurred in 4 patients after thyroidectomy with CLND for primary tumors with mean size of 1.6 cm (range 1.0–2.0 cm). Two patients with T4 tumors had local recurrence in the paratracheal soft tissues, and 2 patients presented with recurrence in the lateral neck. Temporary nerve injuries occurred in 9/266 (3.4%) and permanent nerve injuries in 1/266 (0.4%) of CLND. Permanent hypoparathyroidism occurred in 4/266 (1.5%) patients.


Total thyroidectomy with CLND can safely be performed routinely for treatment of papillary thyroid cancer in the hands of experienced endocrine surgeons. Dissection of level VI lymph nodes does not increase the risk of recurrent laryngeal nerve injury when performed routinely. Bilateral CLND with total thyroidectomy for papillary thyroid cancer potentially minimizes recurrence in the level VI compartment.

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