Assessment of Voice Outcomes Following Surgery for Thyroid Cancer

JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2019 Jul 18;e191737. doi: 10.1001/jamaoto.2019.1737. Online ahead of print.


Importance: An increasing number of surgeries are being performed for differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC). Long-term voice abnormalities are a known risk of thyroid surgery; however, few studies have used validated scales to quantify voice outcomes after surgery.

Objective: To identify the prevalence, severity, and factors associated with poor voice outcomes following surgery for DTC.

Design, setting, and participants: A cross-sectional, population-based survey was distributed via a modified Dillman method to 4185 eligible patients and linked to Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) data from SEER sites in Georgia and Los Angeles, California, from February 1, 2017, to October 31, 2018. Multivariable logistic regression and zero-inflated negative binomial analysis were performed to determine factors associated with abnormal voice. Participants included patients undergoing surgery for DTC between January 1, 2014, and December 31, 2015, excluding those with voice abnormalities before surgery.

Main outcomes and measures: Abnormal Voice Handicap Index (VHI-10) score, defined as greater than 11. The VHI-10 is designed to quantify 10 psychosocial consequences of voice disorders on a Likert scale (0, never; to 4, always).

Results: A total of 2632 patients (63%) responded to the survey and 2325 met the inclusion criteria. With data reported as unweighted number and weighted percentage, 1792 were women (77.4%); weighted mean (SD) age was 49.4 (14.4) years. Of these, 599 patients (25.8%) reported voice changes lasting more than 3 months following surgery, 272 patients (12.7%) were identified as having an abnormal VHI-10 score, and 105 patients (4.7%) reported vocal fold motion impairment diagnosed by laryngoscopy. In multivariable analysis, factors associated with an abnormal VHI-10 score included age 45 to 54 years (reference, ≤44 years; odds ratio [OR], 1.49; 95% CI, 1.05-2.11), black race (OR, 1.73; 95% CI, 1.14-2.62), Asian race (OR, 1.66; 95% CI, 1.08-2.54), gastroesophageal reflux disease (OR, 1.67; 95% CI, 1.15-2.43), and lateral neck dissection (OR, 1.99; 95% CI, 1.11-3.56).

Conclusions and relevance: A high prevalence of abnormal voice per validation with the VHI-10 emphasizes the need for heightened awareness of voice abnormalities following surgery and warrants consideration in the preoperative risk-benefit discussion, planned extent of surgery, and postoperative rehabilitation.