Background: The continued debate over total thyroidectomy versus lobectomy and declining favor for prophylactic central neck dissection for patients with clinically node-negative papillary thyroid cancer ≤4 cm is ongoing after the 2015 guideline updates from the American Thyroid Association. This study aimed to evaluate contemporary trends in the extent of surgery in this low-risk cohort.
Methods: Retrospective data from the National Cancer Database were used to identify adult patients with clinically node-negative papillary thyroid cancer ≤4 cm who underwent resection from 2012 to 2020. The primary outcome was the extent of surgery (lobectomy or total thyroidectomy, with or without prophylactic central neck dissection). Multivariable regression was performed to identify characteristics associated with variation in the extent of surgery.
Results: Of 83,464 included patients, 79.3% were female patients with a median age of 51 years. The majority underwent total thyroidectomy either with prophylactic central neck dissection (39.1%) or without (37.5%) versus lobectomy with prophylactic central neck dissection (7.2%) or without (16.2%). Lobectomy rates increased from 18.3% in 2012 to 29.9% in 2020. Prophylactic central neck dissection rates also increased (42.9% to 52.1%). Patients who were male sex, Asian American, had smaller tumors or were treated at community cancer programs had a decreased likelihood of total thyroidectomy. Patients who were older, male sex, Black race, with smaller tumors, or were treated at community cancer programs or mid- or low-volume facilities had decreased likelihood of prophylactic central neck dissection.
Conclusion: Proportional use rates of operative approaches for low-risk, clinically node-negative papillary thyroid cancer have changed in recent years after the American Thyroid Association guideline changes, including increasing overall rates of lobectomy as well as prophylactic central neck dissection, with differences noted based on patient- and facility-level factors.
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