Context: Although commonly performed, data are lacking regarding efficacy and safety of lymph node dissection (LND) for recurrent/persistent papillary thyroid cancer (PTC).
Objective: Evaluate the efficacy and morbidity of LND in recurrent/persistent PTC.
Design: Retrospective review of central or lateral LND performed for persistent/recurrent PTC between January 2004 and March 2006.
Setting: Multidisciplinary thyroid cancer clinic with a single surgeon at an academic medical center.
Participants: Seventy-five patients who underwent 79 LND for persistent/residual PTC. Safety analysis included all 79 resections. Exclusion criteria for the efficacy analysis were factors prohibiting evaluation of thyroglobulin (Tg) response. Forty-one resections were included in the efficacy analysis.
Intervention: Selective LND per standard of care.
Main Outcome Measure: Primary outcome was the Tg response to LND. Secondary outcomes were surgical complications.
Results: Thirty-nine of the 41 evaluable resections also had Tg data allowing classification of Tg response. Of 39 classifiable resections, 16 (41%) resulted in undetectable postoperative stimulated Tg levels. An additional 12 resections resulted in significant (≥50%) reductions in suppressed or stimulated Tg levels for an overall improvement rate of 72%. Of all 79 resections, 25 (32%) resulted in minor and 7 (9%) resulted in major complications.
Conclusions: LND for persistent/recurrent PTC is a relatively safe procedure in experienced hands. It can lead to an undetectable Tg in 41% of cases and produce a major Tg reduction in an additional 31%. Its efficacy in short-term follow-up is comparable with that reported for I-131, and it should be considered in the management of persistent/recurrent PTC.