Prevention of complications during reoperative thyroid surgery

Clin Ter. 2014;165(4):e285-90. doi: 10.7417/CT.2014.1744.


Background: Thyroidectomy performed by an experienced surgeon is associated with a low incidence of recurrent laryngeal nerve injury and permanent hypoparathyroidism. During reoperative thyroid surgery there is a higher technical risk because detection and preservation of the recurrent laryngeal nerves and parathyroid glands are more difficult than in the primary surgery.

Aim: Our retrospective cohort study was to assess short- and long-term complications associated with reoperative thyroid surgery in order to suggest a technical approach to lower the morbidity rate.

Materials and methods: From January 2005 to September 2013, 745 patients underwent surgery for thyroid disease. Before surgery all patients underwent clinical examination, laboratory blood tests, hormonal assays, neck ultrasound, chest radiography and indirect laryngoscopy. Patients were followed up at 1, 3, 6 months and then annually after operation with hormonal assays, blood tests and neck ultrasound.

Results: Eighty (10.7%) out of 745 patients (mean-age= 52.5 years; age-range 18-80) underwent reoperative surgery for recurrent thyroid disease. The primary treatments were enucleoresection (11.2%), thyroid lobectomy(56,3%), thyroid lobectomy with isthmectomy(10%) and subtotal thyroidectomy (22,5%). In the reoperative surgery group (Group Re) the transient RLN complications were 1.3% compared to 0.2% in the primary surgery group (Group P) (p= 0.51). The incidence of temporary hypocalcemia was 45% in the reoperative surgery group vs. 42.7% in the primary surgery group (p=0.72).

Conclusions: Reoperative surgery should be reserved to experienced surgeons. However, even in this case, when surgical maneuvers reserved for primary surgery are applied, then this surgery is associated with a low complications rate.

Keywords: lobectomy; parathyroid gland injury; recurrent laryngeal nerve injury; reoperative thyroid surgery; thyroidectomy.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control*
  • Reoperation*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Thyroid Diseases / surgery*
  • Thyroid Gland / surgery*
  • Thyroidectomy / adverse effects*
  • Young Adult