Additional Surgery for Occult Risk Factors after Lobectomy in Solitary Thyroid Nodules is Predicted by Cytopathology Classification and Tumor Size

Andrew Flagg, Lisa Rooper, Sheila Sheth, Mohammad Shaear, Prasanna Santhanam, Jason Prescott, Matt T. Olson, Justin A. Bishop, Jennifer S. Mammen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Clinical practice for differentiated thyroid cancer is moving towards lobectomy rather than total thyroidectomy in patients at low risk of recurrence. However, recurrence risk assessment depends on postoperative findings, while the surgical decision is based on preoperative factors. We determined the preoperative predictors of occult higher-risk pathology and rates of completion thyroidectomy among surgical candidates with nonbenign thyroid nodules 10 to 40 mm and no evidence of extrathyroidal extension or metastasis on preoperative evaluation. Methods: Thyroid surgery cases at a single institution from 2005-2015 were reviewed to identify those meeting American Thyroid Association (ATA) criteria for lobectomy. ATA-based risk stratification from postoperative surgical pathology was compared to preoperative cytopathology, ultrasound, and clinical findings. Results: Of 1,995 thyroid surgeries performed for nonbenign thyroid nodules 10 to 40 mm, 349 met ATA criteria for lobectomy. Occult high-risk features such as tall cell variant, gross extrathyroidal invasion, or vascular invasion were found in 36 cases (10.7%), while intraoperative lymphadenopathy led to surgical upstaging in 13 (3.7%). Intermediate risk features such as moderate lymphadenopathy or minimal extrathyroidal extension were present in an additional 44 cases. Occult risk features were present twice as often in Bethesda class 6 cases (35%) as in lower categories (12 to 17%). In multivariable analysis, Bethesda class and nodule size, but not age, race, sex, or ultrasound features, were significant predictors of occult higher-risk pathology. Conclusion: Most solitary thyroid nodules less than 4 cm and with cytology findings including atypia of undetermined significance through suspicious for papillary thyroid cancer would be sufficiently treated by lobectomy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)754-760
Number of pages7
JournalEndocrine Practice
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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