Context: Repeated neck explorations can be a difficult task in patients with recurrent metastatic cervical lymph nodes from papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC).
Objective: The aim of this retrospective study has been to assess the efficacy of ultrasound (US)-guided percutaneous ethanol injection (PEI) as treatment of metastatic cervical lymph nodes from PTC.
Materials and methods: Sixty-nine patients who previously had undergone thyroidectomy for PTC were selected for inclusion. However, three patients were later excluded due to lack of follow-up. Lymph node status was determined by US-guided fine-needle aspiration biopsy and/or by raised levels of thyroglobulin in washouts from the cytological needle. Guided by US, 0.1-1.0 ml of 99.5% ethanol was injected into the metastatic lymph nodes.
Results: Three patients (eight metastatic lymph nodes in total) were reassigned to surgery due to progression (multiple new metastases), leaving 63 patients and 109 neck lymph nodes to be included. Mean observation time was 38.4 months (range, 3-72). A total of 101 of the 109 (93%) metastatic lymph nodes responded to PEI treatment, 92 (84%) completely and nine incompletely. Two did not respond, and four progressed. Two lymph nodes previously considered successfully treated showed evidence of malignancy during follow-up. No significant side effects were reported.
Conclusion: US-guided PEI treatment of metastatic lymph nodes seems to be an excellent alternative to surgery in patients with a limited number of neck metastases from PTC. This procedure should replace "berry picking" surgery.