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February 1996

Small Carcinomas of the Thyroid: A Long-term Follow-up of 867 Patients

Author Affiliations

From the Noguchi Thyroid Clinic and Hospital Foundation, Oita, Japan (Drs Noguchi, Murakami, Toda, and Kawamoto); and the Department of Pathology, Oita Medical College (Drs Yamashita and Nakayama).

Arch Surg. 1996;131(2):187-191. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1996.01430140077021

Objective:  To determine the adequate extent of surgery for small carcinomas of the thyroid.

Design:  Retrospective cohort study of 867 consecutive patients with small carcinomas of the thyroid (lesions <10 mm in diameter) who were operated on at the Noguchi Thyroid Clinic, Oita, Japan, between 1965 and 1987. Mean follow-up was 12.8 years.

Setting:  A center for treatment of thyroid disease, where about 1400 thyroid operations are performed per year.

Patients:  Thyroidectomy was performed in patients with a preoperative diagnosis of Graves' disease, Graves' disease with nodules, solitary thyroid nodules, multinodular goiters, cysts, chronic thyroiditis, and small carcinomas of the thyroid, in 394, 22, 136, 193, 18, 28, and 76 patients, respectively.

Results:  Operations were conservative. Three patients who had adenomatous nodular goiters underwent total thyroidectomy. Modified radical neck dissection was performed in 66 patients. Of these 66 patients, 30 had grossly noticeable nodal metastases and 17 had microscopic metastases. Another 50 patients underwent selective lymph node excision, and 28 patients had nodal metastases. Recurrence from remnants of thyroid was seen in five patients. They were treated by surgery. Recurrence in lymph nodes was observed in five patients, and four of them were successfully treated. Recurrence in bone was observed in two patients; one with recurrence in the femur was successfully treated. Two patients died with recurrent cancer.

Conclusions:  Small carcinomas of the thyroid can be fatal. Total thyroidectomy is unnecessary. Modified radical neck dissection is unnecessary unless gross nodal metastases are present. Long-term follow-up is mandatory.(Arch Surg. 1996;131:187-191)

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