Surgery for benign thyroid disease causing tracheoesophageal compression

Otolaryngol Clin North Am. 1990 Jun;23(3):391-401.


Even though the incidence of multinodular goiter is decreasing in the United States, still we see a large number of neglected goiters causing pressure effects on the surrounding structures. Both tracheal and esophageal displacement cause compression symptoms. However, tracheal compression may lead to acute airway distress. Eighteen per cent of our patients presented with acute airway problems, requiring emergency admission or intubation. Surgical intervention has been our preferred approach whenever there are signs or symptoms of tracheoesophageal compression. Fifty-five per cent of patients had only tracheal compression, while 18 per cent had only esophageal compression. Twenty-seven per cent had compression of both trachea and esophagus. Eighty-five per cent of patients had some symptoms of compression, while only 15% were asymptomatic despite large goiters. Compression symptoms and acute problems were noticed more frequently in patients with substernal goiters. Our preoperative work-up regularly included complete history, physical examination, indirect laryngoscopy, and airway radiography. Barium studies were performed if patients had dysphagia. Computed tomography scans were utilized if there was mediastinal extension. Pulmonary flow volume studies were used to locate the site of compression. However, decisions relative to surgical intervention were based primarily on clinical judgment. Since the postoperative morbidity is minimal in surgery for thyroid abnormalities, we strongly recommend early surgical intervention in patients with tracheoesophageal compression caused by enlarged thyroids.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma / complications
  • Adenoma / diagnosis
  • Adenoma / surgery*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Airway Obstruction / diagnosis
  • Airway Obstruction / etiology
  • Calcinosis / complications
  • Esophageal Stenosis / diagnosis
  • Esophageal Stenosis / etiology*
  • Female
  • Goiter, Nodular / complications
  • Goiter, Nodular / diagnosis
  • Goiter, Nodular / surgery*
  • Goiter, Substernal / complications
  • Goiter, Substernal / diagnosis
  • Goiter, Substernal / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ossification, Heterotopic / complications
  • Preoperative Care
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / complications
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Thyroidectomy / methods*
  • Tracheal Stenosis / diagnosis
  • Tracheal Stenosis / etiology*