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.