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Original Investigation
June 2015

Percutaneous Ethanol Injection vs Reoperation for Locally Recurrent Papillary Thyroid Cancer: A Systematic Review and Pooled Analysis

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Surgery, Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • 2School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • 3Division of Thyroid and Parathyroid Surgery, Department of Otolaryngology, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 4Division of Surgical Oncology, Department of Surgery, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 5Department of Otolaryngology, Tulane University School of Medicine. New Orleans, Louisiana
JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2015;141(6):512-518. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2015.0596

Importance  Reoperation for recurrent papillary thyroid cancer (PTC) can be associated with a high rate of complications and failure to provide lasting remission. Percutaneous ethanol injection (PEI) may be an effective nonsurgical management option for locally recurrent PTC.

Objective  This systematic analysis of the current literature compares the efficacy and complications related to PEI vs reoperative surgical intervention for treatment of locally recurrent PTC.

Data Sources  Original studies were identified using the keywords “thyroid/ethanol” and “recurrent thyroid cancer/repeat surgery.”

Study Selection  Studies evaluating reoperation or PEI for lymph node metastases in patients with primary surgery of total thyroidectomy with appropriate lymph node dissection where indicated were included in the analysis for both reoperation and PEI. Animal studies, single case reports, and studies with fewer than 10 lesions were excluded.

Data Extraction and Synthesis  Outcomes included interval to detection of recurrence, success and failure rates, recurrence rates, complication rates, and follow-up duration. Between-group outcome differences were calculated using random-effects models, and pooled data cross-tabulation and logistic regression analysis were used.

Results  In all, 945 publications were identified, and 27 studies met the inclusion criteria. There were no studies that directly compared the 2 treatment techniques. A total of 1617 patients were included in this analysis; 168 (11.4%) were treated with PEI, and 1449 (88.6%) were treated with reoperation. Reoperation was successful in 94.8% of cases compared with an 87.5% success rate for PEI (odds ratio [OR], 2.58; 95% CI, 1.55-4.31; P < .001). The recurrence rates for PEI and reoperation at the site of the treated lesion or elsewhere in the neck were also similar (OR, 1.07; 95% CI, 0.65-1.77; P = .78). Reoperation was associated with a 3.5% pooled risk of complications, while PEI incurred a pooled risk of 1.2% (OR, 2.9; 95% CI, 0.72-12.3; P = .08). However, most studies did not report routine preoperative and postoperative laryngoscopies, an evaluation needed for accurate neural complication analysis associated with each procedure.

Conclusions and Relevance  High-quality, well-designed studies are needed to evaluate the feasibility of incorporating PEI into the treatment protocol of PTC. Although presently inferior to reoperation, PEI has the potential to be a widely accepted and effective nonsurgical treatment option for limited recurrent PTC in poor surgical candidates or patients seeking to avoid multiple reoperations.