Results of transcervical thymectomy for myasthenia gravis in 100 consecutive patients

Ann Surg. 1999 Oct;230(4):555-9; discussion 559-61. doi: 10.1097/00000658-199910000-00011.


Objective: To review the results of the authors' most recent 100 consecutive cases of transcervical thymectomy for myasthenia gravis (MG) in terms of complications and outcome in comparison with other reported techniques.

Summary background data: Myasthenia gravis is believed to be an autoimmune disorder characterized by increasing fatigue with exertion. The role of thymectomy in the management of the disease remains unproven, but there is widespread acceptance of the notion that complete thymectomy improves the course of the disease. Complete excision of the thymus is the goal in all cases; however, the best technique to achieve complete thymectomy remains controversial. The authors favor a transcervical approach through a small collar incision aided by a specially designed sternal retractor. Others prefer a transsternal, a combined transcervical and transsternal ("maximal"), or a video-assisted thoracoscopic surgical approach.

Methods: A retrospective review of the authors' most recent 100 consecutive transcervical thymectomies for nonthymoma-associated MG was performed using medical records and telephone interviews. Patients' symptoms were graded before surgery and at the most recent (within the last 6 months) postoperative time point, using the modified Osserman classification: 0 = asymptomatic, 1 = ocular signs and symptoms, 2 = mild generalized weakness, 3 = moderate generalized weakness, bulbar dysfunction, or both, and 4 = severe generalized weakness, respiratory dysfunction, or both.

Results: There were 61 female patients and 39 male patients with a mean age of 38 years (range, 14 to 84). The median hospital stay was 1 day. There were no deaths and no significant complications. Seventy-eight patients who had undergone surgery >12 months ago were available for analysis. In these patients, with a mean follow-up time of 5 years (median 5.3; range, 12 months to 10 years), the median preoperative Osserman grade improved from 3.0 (mean 2.73) before surgery to 1.0 after surgery (mean 0.94).

Conclusions: The transcervical approach for thymectomy for the treatment of MG produces results similar to those of other surgical approaches, with the added benefits of shortened hospital stay, decreased complications, reduced cost, and broader physician and patient acceptance of surgical treatment.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myasthenia Gravis / surgery*
  • Neck
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Thymectomy / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome