Adherence to ATA 2015 guidelines in the management of unifocal non-invasive papillary thyroid cancer: a clinical survey among endocrinologists and surgeons

Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2018 Nov;275(11):2851-2859. doi: 10.1007/s00405-018-5126-x. Epub 2018 Sep 18.


Background: Despite updated guidelines, management of thyroid nodules remains controversial. We aim to check implementation of new guidelines by ear-nose-throat (ENT) surgeons and endocrinologists.

Methods: A questionnaire was e-mailed including demographic data and an index case: a healthy 26-year-old women with a 3-cm Bethesda III (B3) atypia of undetermined significance solitary nodule and eventually papillary thyroid cancer (PTC).

Results: Respondent rate was 50.5%, 93 endocrinologists, 55 surgeons. For this case, 77.4% would repeat fine-needle aspiration (FNA), 25.3% order molecular analysis and 22.6% do surgery. If repeated FNA remained B3, 51% would choose surgery, 17.3% molecular analysis and 31.6% follow-up only. If repeated FNA was B6, 58.5% would recommend total (TTx) and 41.5% hemithyroidectomy (HTx). In pathologically confirmed PTC after HTx, 42.4% would recommend completion, 26.8% radioactive iodine (RAI) treatment. For a > = 4-cm tumor, 49.2% would recommend TTx. For a tumor 2-4 cm, 41% would recommend TTx. Variables favoring TTx were family history and radiation exposure. Only 17.4% would prefer TTx when small benign contralateral tumor is present. Reassessment at 1 year with undetectable thyroglobulin (Tg) included stimulated Tg (stTg) (72.5%), neck US only (27.5%) and combined US-stTg (59.4%); only 10.3% would order a diagnostic scan. For recurrence in two (13-9 mm) lymph nodes, 59.3% recommend reoperation, 16.3% RAI and 24.4% active surveillance. There were no major differences between endocrinologists and ENT surgeons.

Conclusions: We report a considerable lack of adherence to new guidelines, with only 50% recommending HTx for a 4-cm unifocal low-risk PTC tumor.

Keywords: Approach; Guidelines; Oncology; Papillary thyroid cancer; Survey; Thyroid.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biopsy, Fine-Needle
  • Endocrinology
  • Female
  • Guideline Adherence*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Reoperation
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Thyroglobulin / blood
  • Thyroid Cancer, Papillary / blood
  • Thyroid Cancer, Papillary / pathology
  • Thyroid Cancer, Papillary / therapy*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / blood
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / pathology
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Thyroidectomy
  • Young Adult


  • Thyroglobulin