Reconsideration of tumor size threshold for total thyroidectomy in differentiated thyroid cancer

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The optimal extent of surgery for differentiated thyroid cancer may not be well recognized initially. Identification of intermediate-risk features on surgical pathology may prompt the need for completion thyroidectomy if a lobectomy is performed. In this study, we examined the factors in relation to the need for completion thyroidectomy.


We studied consecutive patients who underwent thyroidectomy for differentiated thyroid cancer from 2008 to 2017. Total thyroidectomy was indicated when tumor size >4 cm, clinical extrathyroidal extension, clinical lymph node metastasis, or distant metastasis was present. The need for completion thyroidectomy was defined as the presence of aggressive histology, extrathyroidal extension, lymphovascular invasion, or non–low-risk nodal metastasis.


Among 771 patients, 155 (20%) were definitely indicated for total thyroidectomy. The need for completion thyroidectomy was identified in 273 (44%) of the 616 patients initially eligible for lobectomy. The proportions of patients requiring completion thyroidectomy were 18% and 57% for microcarcinomas and tumors of 1–4 cm, respectively. Receiver operating characteristic curve analysis indicated that tumor size ≥1.1 cm had the highest accuracy of prediction. Multivariate logistic regression revealed that tumor size and BRAF V600E mutation were independent factors predicting the risk of requiring completion thyroidectomy.


A substantial portion of patients with differentiated thyroid cancer who are preoperatively eligible for lobectomy would be found to have intermediate-risk pathologic features. This should be incorporated into the shared decision making before surgery.

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