Substernal Goiter: Correlation between Grade and Surgical Approach

Am Surg. 2018 Feb 1;84(2):262-266.


Substernal goiter is defined as a thyroid growth beyond the thoracic inlet. Using the cross-section imaging CT system, it can be classified into three grades. The aim of the study was to validate the surgical approach and the occurrence of postoperative complications with substernal goiter extension in our patient population. From a total of 1145 patients who underwent thyroid surgery at our institution in a 15-year period, 60 patients with substernal goiter were included. Clinical features and demographics, degree of extension, surgical details, and complications were analyzed. Mean ± SD age of the patients was 58 ± 14.7 years and 88 per cent were females. According to the cross-section imaging CT system 61.7 per cent were grade I, 23.3 per cent grade II, and 15 per cent grade III. Total thyroidectomy was performed in 78.3 per cent of the patients, subtotal thyroidectomy in 18.3 per cent, and lobectomy in 3.3 per cent. The cervical approach was sufficient to perform 96.7 per cent of the thyroidectomies, requiring partial sternotomy in only two patients with grade III substernal goiter. Patients with grade III substernal goiter had a higher risk for postoperative dysphonia (OR = 14.29, IC95% 1.14-178.9, P = 0.03), which occurred in three patients (two transient and one permanent). Transitory hypoparathyroidism was present in 20 patients (33.3%) and did not correlate with goiter extension. Most substernal goiters can be resected through a cervical approach, with relatively low morbidity. Postoperative dysphonia was directly related to the extension of the goiter. Few cases with grade III goiters require a partial sternotomy.

Publication types

  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Goiter, Substernal / diagnostic imaging
  • Goiter, Substernal / pathology
  • Goiter, Substernal / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Thyroidectomy / methods*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*
  • Treatment Outcome