Total thyroidectomy vs bilateral subtotal thyroidectomy in patients with Graves' diseases: a meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials

Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2013 Nov;79(5):739-46. doi: 10.1111/cen.12209. Epub 2013 Apr 19.


Background: Conducting total thyroidectomy (TT) or subtotal thyroidectomy (ST) in patients with Graves' disease remains controversial. We performed a meta-analysis based on the published randomized controlled trials to evaluate the complications of TT vs ST.

Methods: We searched multiple electronic databases for prospective, randomized, controlled trials related to safety and effectiveness of TT vs ST. Relative risk (RR) was estimated with 95% confidence interval (CI) based on an intention-to-treat analysis. We considered the following outcomes: recurrent hyperthyroidism, ophthalmopathy progression, temporary and permanent hypoparathyroidism, temporary and permanent recurrent laryngeal nerve palsy (RLNP) and post-operative bleeding.

Results: Four trials with 674 patients (342 with TT, 332 with ST) were analysed. Although the overall rates of ophthalmopathy progression were similar between TT and ST (RR 0·92, 95% CI = 0·50-1·71; P = 0·80), TT was associated with a significant reduction in recurrent hyperthyroidism (RR 0·14, 95% CI = 0·05-0·41; P < 0·01). The pooled RR of post-operative bleeding for TT was similar to that for ST (RR 0·32, 95% CI = 0·05-1·96; P = 0·22). However, comparing with ST, the RR of temporary hypoparathyroidism was significantly higher for TT (RR 2·66, 95% CI = 1·89-3·73; P < 0·01). There was no significant difference in permanent hypoparathyroidism (RR 2·30, 95% CI = 0·78-6·76; P = 0·13), temporary (RR 1·08, 95% CI = 0·47-2·48; P = 0·85) and permanent RLNP (RR 1·54, 95% CI = 0·41-5·73; P = 0·52) between the two groups.

Conclusions: With regard to ophthalmopathy progression, post-operative bleeding, permanent hypoparathyroidism, temporary and permanent RLNP, TT is consistent with ST in patients with Graves' disease. However, TT is associated with a reduced incidence of recurrent hyperthyroidism and results in an increase in temporary hypoparathyroidism. Therefore, TT should be proposed for the treatment of Graves' disease.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Graves Disease / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Thyroidectomy / adverse effects
  • Thyroidectomy / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome