Do carbon nanoparticles really improve thyroid cancer surgery? A retrospective analysis of real-world data

World J Surg Oncol. 2020 May 2;18(1):84. doi: 10.1186/s12957-020-01852-5.


Background: Parathyroid protection and central neck dissection (CND) are basic points of thyroid cancer surgery and draw persistent concern. We aimed to evaluate the value of carbon nanoparticles (CNs) for parathyroid gland protection and CND in thyroid surgery for thyroid cancer patients.

Methods: A total of 386 consecutive thyroid cancer patients were enrolled in the retrospective study. Three hundred thirty-four patients using CNs intraoperatively were included in the CN group, and 52 patients without using CNs or any other helping agent were included in the control group. Intact parathyroid hormone (iPTH) was examined. Medical records and histopathologic reports were reviewed. Histopathologic examination was performed.

Results: There were no statistical significances in demographic and basic surgical information, preoperative iPTH, and serum calcium between the two groups (P > 0.05). In the CN group, the thyroid tissue and central neck lymph nodes were stained black by CNs, while the parathyroid glands were not. Histopathological examination showed that the carbon nanoparticles might accumulated in the subcapsular sinus of lymph nodes compared with the none-stained samples. The staining with CNs did not impact the histopathological examination. There were no significant differences in postoperative hypocalcemia and hypoPT at day 1, 1 month, and half year after surgery between the two groups, respectively. There was a big decline of iPTH level after surgery, whereas the perioperative decreasing amplitude of PTH was not statistically different between the CNs and control group (57.2 ± 28.6 vs 55.7 ± 27.8, P = 0.710). There were 43 patients occurring incidental parathyroidectomy in the CN group (43/334, 12.9%) and 7 patients in the control group (7/52, 13.5%), without significant difference (P = 0.907). There was no significant difference in the number of lymph nodes identified by pathology per patient between the CNs and control group regardless of unilateral and bilateral CND.

Conclusions: Carbon nanoparticles help highlight parathyroid glands and lymph nodes in thyroidectomy, but generate no significant benefit for parathyroid glands protection and lymph node dissection. The value of carbon nanoparticles in thyroid cancer surgery should not be exaggerated and needs further evaluation.

Keywords: Carbon nanoparticles; Lymph node dissection; Parathyroid; Thyroidectomy.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Carbon / administration & dosage
  • Coloring Agents / administration & dosage
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intraoperative Care / methods*
  • Intraoperative Complications / etiology
  • Intraoperative Complications / prevention & control
  • Lymph Nodes / surgery
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nanoparticles / administration & dosage
  • Neck Dissection / adverse effects*
  • Neck Dissection / methods
  • Parathyroid Glands / injuries
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Staining and Labeling / methods*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Thyroidectomy / adverse effects
  • Thyroidectomy / methods*


  • Coloring Agents
  • Carbon