Context: A few papillary thyroid microcarcinomas (PTMCs) may have skip metastasis (SLNM), but the risk factors remain controversial and the prognosis is unclear.
Objectives: To investigate the incidence, lymph node metastasis (LNM) patterns, risk factors, and prognosis of SLNM in PTMCs.
Methods: We reviewed the medical records of PTMC patients who underwent thyroid surgery in our institution. Analyses of risk factors were performed for SLNM. Recurrence-free survival (RFS) of SLNM, central lymph node metastasis (CLNM), and continuous metastasis (CLNM and lateral lymph node metastasis [CLNM + LLNM]) were compared after propensity score matching (PSM).
Results: SLNM was detected in 1.7% (50/3923) and frequently involved level III (66.7%). Compared with CLNM + LLNM, SLNM had more LNM at a single level (P < 0.01) and less LNM at 2 levels (P < 0.05). A tumor size of 0.5 to 1 cm (odds ratio [OR], 2.26; 95% CI, 1.27-4.00) and location in the upper pole (OR, 3.30; 95% CI, 2.02-5.40) were independent risk factors for SLNM. A total of 910 (23.2%) PTMCs with LNM were included in the prognostic analysis. At a median follow-up of 60 months, the RFS of SLNM did not differ from that of CLNM (P = 0.10) but was significantly higher than that of CLNM + LLNM (P < 0.01) after using PSM.
Conclusions: When the tumor size is 0.5 to 1 cm or its location is in the upper pole, we must remain vigilant to SLNM in PTMC. Because its prognosis is comparable to that of only CLNM and better than that of CLNM + LLNM, less intensive treatment should be considered.
Keywords: papillary thyroid microcarcinoma; propensity score matching; recurrence-free survival; risk factors; skip metastasis.
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