Lobectomy vs total thyroidectomy for intermediate-size papillary thyroid cancer

One discussion last week included the extent of surgery for intermediate-size papillary thyroid cancer: lobectomy vs total thyroidectomy.

Reference: Adam MA, et al. Extent of surgery for papillary thyroid cancer is not associated with survival: an analysis of 61,775 patients. Annals of Surgery. 2014 Oct;260(4):601-605. doi:10.1097/SLA.0000000000000925.

Summary: Guidelines recommend total thyroidectomy for PTC tumors >1 cm, based on older data demonstrating an overall survival advantage for total thyroidectomy over lobectomy.

Adult patients with PTC tumors 1.0-4.0 cm undergoing thyroidectomy in the National Cancer Database between 1998-2006 were included, totaling 61,775 patients. Median follow-up was 82 months (range, 60-179 months).

Lobectomy (n=6849)

Total thyroidectomy (n=54,926)

Nodal disease



Extrathyroidal disease



Multifocual disease



After multivariable adjustment, overall survival was similar in patients undergoing total thyroidectomy versus lobectomy for tumors 1.0-4.0 cm and when stratified by tumor size: 1.0-2.0 cm and 2.1-4.0 cm. Older age, male sex, black race, lower income, tumor size, and presence of nodal or distant metastases were independently associated with compromised survival (P < 0.0001).

Adam et al (2014) conclude that although current guidelines suggest total thyroidectomy for PTC tumors >1 cm, they did not observe a survival advantage associated with total thyroidectomy compared with lobectomy. These findings call into question whether tumor size should be an absolute indication for total thyroidectomy.

1 thought on “Lobectomy vs total thyroidectomy for intermediate-size papillary thyroid cancer

  1. Surgery for the thyroid is not solely done for survival advantage but also ease of surveillance and dealing with recurrence. Can’t use RAI for detection or treatment unless a total thyroidectomy has been performed.


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