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Surgical Practice Patterns in the Treatment of Papillary Thyroid Microcarcinoma

Arthur W. Wu, MD; Marilene B. Wang, MD; Chau T. Nguyen, MD
Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2010;136(12):1182-1190. doi:10.1001/archoto.2010.193.
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Background  Recently, there has been a debate regarding total thyroidectomy vs hemithyroidectomy for papillary thyroid microcarcinoma (PTMC).

Objective  To determine whether there were significant differences in the treatment of PTMC depending on a physician's experience, age, training, and location.

Methods  A 10-question survey was distributed to otolaryngologists, general surgeons, and endocrine surgeons. It included 4 clinical scenarios, 2 questions querying clinical reasoning, and 4 demographic questions (training, surgical volume, location, and age). The demographic variables were used to analyze responses to the 4 clinical scenarios with bivariate and multivariate statistics.

Results  A total of 438 responders completed the survey. Given a single subcentimeter PTMC, 70.3% of surgeons recommended no further surgery after a hemithyroidectomy, yet 29.7% believed that completion thyroidectomy was necessary. Otolaryngologists chose total thyroidectomy more frequently, as did surgeons from the South and West. Given PTMC with lymphatic invasion, 392 (89.5%) responders recommended completion thyroidectomy, with otolaryngologists again more inclined toward completion surgery. Given multifocal PTMC, 85.4% chose completion thyroidectomy, with surgeons in the South and West recommending total thyroidectomy more frequently compared with those in the Northeast. Improved survival, surgeon preference, and need for thyroid suppression were rated relatively insignificant. Ease of patient follow-up and multifocality of disease were judged very significant. Influence from national guidelines and current literature was rated as only somewhat or minimally significant.

Conclusions  In this survey, most surgeons seemed to follow national guidelines regarding the surgical treatment of PTMC. However, significant differences in the treatment and perception of PTMC exist based on surgical training and location.

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Figure 1.

Questionnaire for surgical practice patterns in the treatment of papillary thyroid microcarcinoma (PTMC).

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Figure 2.

Results from clinical scenarios 1 to 4. PTMC indicates papillary thyroid microcarcinoma.

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Figure 3.

Clinical reasoning and decision making in the treatment of papillary thyroid microcarcinoma: 0 (not applicable), 1 (little significance), 2 (somewhat significant), 3 (very significant), or 4 (most significant).

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Figure 4.

Ranking determining factors in the treatment of papillary thyroid microcarcinoma (PTMC) among responding surgeons.

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