Introduction: Current guidelines increasingly suggest the use of thyroid lobectomy for indeterminate (Bethesda 3 and 4) and high-risk (Bethesda 5 and 6) thyroid nodules; however, the clinical reality is often very different.
Materials and methods: The aim of this study was to determine the rate of completion thyroidectomy (CTx) for indeterminate and high-risk thyroid nodules which are pre-operatively classified as suitable for unilateral resection (lobe eligible) based on current guidelines. Seven hundred consecutive patients with thyroid nodules and FNA cytology over four years (2015-2018) were reviewed.
Results: Distribution of the dominant nodules by Bethesda was: non-diagnostic 3.9%, benign 28.1%, atypia of unknown significance 19.0%, follicular neoplasm 23.6%, suspicious for malignancy 6.1% and malignancy 19.3%. Of 298 indeterminate nodules, 68.8% (205/298) had relative but independent indications for a total thyroidectomy (TTx) and the remainder were candidates for lobectomy. For these lobe eligible patients, the overall risk of ultimately needing a TTx was 19.4% (18/93), comprising 4.3% (4/93) from intra-operative findings and 15.7% (14/89) from final pathology. Similarly, of 170 high-risk nodules, 63.5% (108/170) had upfront indications for a TTx and the remaining 62 nodules were lobe eligible. Of the patients taken to the operating room for a lobectomy, 21.0% (13/62) were upgraded to a TTx intra-operatively and 26.5% (13/49) post-operatively. The lobe success rate for indeterminate nodules was 25.2% and for high-risk nodules was 21.2%. The rate of CTx, or the proportion of patients needing a second operation was 15.7% (14/89) and 26.5% (13/49), respectively.
Conclusions: In counselling a patient for surgery, the risk of needing a more radical initial procedure or second surgery needs to be accurately explained. There are three points of care that can influence operative strategy, pre-operatively by way of high-risk clinical factors, intra-operatively via anatomical findings and post-operatively in response to unrecognized pathological features. Additionally, the patient's personal value judgment and level of risk aversion should be taken into consideration.