In this systematic review, we investigated the effects of goitre and its treatment on the trachea and the oesophagus. A total of 6355 papers were screened in scientific databases, which disclosed 40 original studies (nine descriptive and 31 interventional). Although most studies are hampered by a number of methodological shortcomings, it is uncontested that goitre affects the trachea as well as the oesophagus in a large proportion of people. This leads to upper airway obstruction, swallowing dysfunction, or both, which may remain undisclosed unless specifically investigated for. Assessment of the tracheal dimensions should be done by magnetic resonance imaging or computed tomography, and detection of upper airway obstruction by flow volume loops, with focus on the inspiratory component. A clinical evaluation of the oesophageal function is difficult to implement and could be replaced by available and validated questionnaires on swallowing. Although radioiodine therapy and thyroidectomy relieve the negative effect of goitre on the trachea and the oesophagus, many issues remain unexplored.
Keywords: goitre; oesophagus; radioiodine; swallowing; thyroidectomy; trachea; upper airway obstruction.
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