Algorithm for safe and effective reoperative thyroid bed surgery for recurrent/persistent papillary thyroid carcinoma

Tarik Y. Farrag, Nishant Agrawal, Sheila Sheth, Chetan Bettegowda, Marjorie Ewertz, Matthew Kim, Ralph P. Tufano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Background. The aim of this study was to review our experience with reoperative thyroid bed surgery (RTBS) for recurrent/persistent papillary thyroid cancer (PTC), and present an algorithm for safe and effective RTBS. Methods. This is a retrospective study. Records of 33 consecutive patients who underwent RTBS for recurrent/persistent PTC in a previously operated thyroid bed, and were operated upon by the senior author (R.P.T.) July 2001 to January 2006 were reviewed. Reports of the pre- and post-RTBS serum thyroglobulin (TG) levels, the high-resolution thyroid bed ultrasound examination, pre-RTBS FNA cytopathology, as well as the post-RTBS final histopathology were reviewed. Recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN) monitoring was used for all patients. Reports of the intra-RTBS condition of the RLN and any reported surgical complications were reviewed. In addition, reports of the pre- and post-RTBS fiberoptic laryngoscopy as well as pre- and post-RTBS serum calcium levels were reviewed. Results. In our study, 33 consecutive patients underwent RTBS for recurrent/persistent PTC with or without lateral neck dissection. In 30 patients, recurrent/persistent PTC was suspected because of rising serum TG levels, interpreted in conjunction with serum anti-TG-antibody titers by the endocrinology service at our institution. Three patients had serum anti-TG antibodies and their disease was detected and FNA confirmed by a regularly scheduled surveillance ultrasound examination. All patients underwent pre-RTBS high-resolution thyroid bed ultrasound examination and FNA for all suspicious masses. All patients had FNA-confirmed PTC in the thyroid bed. All patients had detailed diagrams localizing areas of FNA-confirmed PTC in the thyroid bed provided to the surgeon. In all study patients, post-RTBS histopathologic findings confirmed sites of recurrent/persistent PTC determined by pre-RTBS US guided FNA. All RLNs (53/53) that were at risk were successfully identified. In 3 patients, the RLN was electively resected because of the envelopment by a large paratracheal mass or tumor densely adherent to the RLN insertion point at the cricothyroid region. There was no incidence of unexpected RLN injury, permanent hypocalcemia, or any other surgery-related complication. Post-RTBS serum TG levels were significantly decreased or undetectable in most patients (2 patients had concurrent lung metastases), when compared with pre-RTBS levels. No patient exhibited thyroid bed recurrent/persistent PTC in the post-RTBS period based on semiannual high resolution neck ultrasound examination with a median follow-up of 2 years. Conclusions. Safe and effective RTBS is based on a multi-disciplinary approach that enables the identification and localization of recurrent/persistent PTC. The surgical algorithm for RTBS described, provides a pathway that all endocrine-head and neck surgeons can comfortably utilize to treat this complex and challenging patient population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1069-1074
Number of pages6
JournalHead and Neck
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2007


  • Hypoparathyroidism
  • Intraoperative monitoring
  • Papillary thyroid cancer
  • Recurrent laryngeal nerve
  • Reoperation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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