Prophylactic Central Neck Dissection in Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma: All Risks, No Reward

J Surg Res. 2021 Apr 7;264:230-235. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2021.02.035. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Background: Central neck dissection (CND) remains a controversial intervention for papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) patients with clinically negative nodes (cN0) in the central compartment. Proponents state that CND in cN0 patients prevents locoregional recurrence, while opponents deem that the risks of complications outweigh any potential benefit. Thus, there remains conflicting results amongst studies assessing oncologic and surgical outcomes in cN0 PTC patients who undergo CND. To provide clarity to this controversy, we sought to evaluate the efficacy, safety, and oncologic impact of CND in cN0 PTC patients at our institution.

Materials and methods: Six hundred and ninety-five patients with PTC who underwent thyroidectomy at our institution between 1998 and 2018 were identified using an institutional cancer registry and supplemental electronic medical record queries. Patients were stratified by whether or not they underwent CND; identified as CND(+) or CND(-), respectively. Patients were also stratified by whether or not they received adjuvant radioactive iodine (RAI) therapy. Patient demographics, pathologic results, as well as surgical and oncologic outcomes were reviewed. Standard statistical analyses were performed using ANOVA and/or t-test and chi-squared tests as appropriate.

Results: Among the 695 patients with PTC, 492 (70.8%) had clinically and radiographically node negative disease (cN0). The mean age was 50 ± 1 years old and 368 (74.8%) were female. Of those with cN0 PTC, 61 patients (12.4%) underwent CND. CND(+) patients were found to have higher preoperative thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) values, 2.8 ± 0.8 versus 1.5 ± 0.2 mU/L (P = 0.028) compared to CND(-) patients. CND did not significantly decrease disease recurrence, development of distant metastatic disease (P = 0.105) or persistence of disease (P = 0.069) at time of mean follow-up of 38 ± 3 months compared to CND(-) patients. However, surgical morbidity rates were significantly higher in CND(+) patients; including transient hypocalcemia (36.1% versus 14.4%; P < 0.001), transient recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN) injury (19.7% vers us 7.0%; P < 0.001), and permanent RLN injury (3.3% versus 0.7%; P < 0.001).

Conclusions: The majority of patients at our institution with cN0 PTC did not undergo CND. This data suggests that CND was not associated with improvements in oncologic outcomes during the short-term follow-up period and led to increased postoperative morbidity. Therefore, we conclude that CND should not be routinely performed for patients with cN0 PTC.

Keywords: Central neck dissection; Papillary thyroid carcinoma; Thyroid surgery.