Assoc. Professor C. J. O’Brien Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Medical Centre, 100 Carillon Avenue, Newtown, NSW 2042, Australia


Background: Total thyroidectomy is widely practised in Australasia for papillary and follicular thyroid carcinoma. Data from large overseas series have demonstrated that patients with these cancers may be separated into risk groups based on clinicopathological prognostic factors. Furthermore, evidence suggests that low-risk patients may be safely treated with less than total thyroidectomy. The aim of the present paper was to determine what proportion of our patients with papillary and follicular thyroid cancer were in the low-risk group in order to select candidates for less aggressive treatment.

Methods: A prospectively documented series of 175 previously untreated patients with papillary and follicular thyroid carcinoma, treated principally by total thyroidectomy over a 10-year period, was divided into risk groups using the Mayo Clinic, Lahey Clinic and Memorial Hospital prognostic scoring systems. Complication rates for 103 patients treated by total thyroidectomy were also studied and reported.

Results: Women outnumbered men by 2.3:1. There were 128 papillary carcinomas (73%) and 47 follicular cancers (27%). These tumours were < 4 cm in diameter in 81% of patients, and 41% of patients were 40 years of age or younger. Low-risk patients accounted for 75, 81 and 45% of the study group, respectively, when the three prognostic scoring systems were applied to our patient population. The rates for recurrent laryngeal nerve palsy and permanent hypoparathyroidism for patients having total thyroidectomy were 1 and 1.9%, respectively. In the low-risk group there were no permanent complications.

Conclusion: Most patients treated at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital during the past 10 years were low-risk patients who may have been eligible for less aggressive surgical treatment.