Surgical approaches in hereditary endocrine tumors

Updates Surg. 2017 Jun;69(2):181-191. doi: 10.1007/s13304-017-0451-y. Epub 2017 Apr 28.


Endocrine tumors of thyroid, adrenal and parathyroid glands may be due to germline and inheritable mutations in 5-30% of patients. Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma, Pheochromocytoma, Paraganglioma, and Familial Primary Hyperparathyroidism are the most frequent entity. Hereditary endocrine tumors usually have a suggestive familial history; they occur earlier than sporadic variants, are multifocal, and have increased recurrence rates. They may be present as isolated variant or associated to other neoplasms in a syndromic setting. Genetic diagnosis should be preferably available before surgery because specific and targeted operative management are needed to achieve the best chance of cure. This review was aimed to discuss the surgical approaches for some of the most frequent hereditary endocrine tumors of thyroid, adrenal and parathyroid glands, focusing on medullary thyroid carcinoma, Pheochromocytoma, Paraganglioma and hereditary primary hyperparathyroidism (pHPT). Hereditary Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma is caused by RET mutations, and may be associated to Pheochromocytomas in MEN 2 setting. Total thyroidectomy and at least central neck nodal dissection is required. The availability of genetic screening allows prophylactic or early surgery in asymptomatic patients, with subsequent definitive cure. Hereditary Pheochromocytomas may be present in several syndromes (MEN 2, VHL, NF1, Paraganglioma/Pheochromocytoma syndrome); it may involve both adrenals; in these cases, a cortical sparing adrenalectomy should be performed to avoid permanent hypocorticosurrenalism. Hereditary Primary Hyperparathyroidism may frequently occur associated to MEN 1, MEN 2A, MEN 4, Hyperparathyroidism-Jaw Tumor Syndrome; it may involve all the parathyroid glands, requiring subtotal parathyroidectomy or total parathyroidectomy plus autotransplantation. In some cases, a selective parathyroidectomy might be performed.

Keywords: Hereditary tumors; Medullary thyroid carcinoma; Paraganglioma; Pheochromocytoma; Primary hyperparathyroidism.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Gland Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Adrenal Gland Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Adrenalectomy / methods*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Genetic Testing
  • Humans
  • Lymph Node Excision
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Mutation
  • Parathyroid Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Parathyroid Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Parathyroidectomy / methods*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Thyroidectomy / methods*