Complications of Thyroidectomy and Parathyroidectomy in the Rural Community Hospital Setting

Richmond, Bryan K.; Eads, K.; Flaherty, Sarah; Belcher, Michael; Runyon, David
April 2007
American Surgeon;Apr2007, Vol. 73 Issue 4, p332
Academic Journal
The objective of this study was to examine the complications encountered in a series of 150 consecutive thyroid and parathyroid procedures performed by a single surgeon in a rural community hospital setting. The goal was to demonstrate that these procedures may be performed safely and with outcomes equivalent to those of academic hospitals in major metropolitan areas despite the lack of availability of specific technologies that are being increasingly used for these procedures in tertiary care settings. Specifically, these include intraoperative parathyroid hormone measurements, intraoperative recurrent laryngeal nerve monitoring, and the use of the gamma probe for detection of parathyroid adenoma. A retrospective chart review was conducted on a series of 150 patients undergoing any thyroid or parathyroid operation by a single surgeon in a rural setting over a 4-year period. Data was reported regarding success at achieving the goal of the operation and any perioperative complications such as recurrent laryngeal nerve injury, permanent hypoparathyroidism, wound hematoma, infection, or pneumonia. One hundred thirty-one thyroid procedures were performed (71 lobectomies, 60 total or near total procedures) for a diverse range of patholological conditions: multinodular goiter, 76 (50.7%) patients, follicular adenoma, 9 (6.0%) patients, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, 13 (8.7%) patients, papillary carcinoma, 14 (9.3%) patients, follicular carcinoma, 5 (3.3%) patients, follicular variant of papillary carcinoma, 13 (8.7%) patients, and medullary carcinoma, 1 (0.7%) patient. Nineteen successful parathyroid explorations were performed for primary hyperparathyroidism. The overall incidence of recurrent nerve injury was 1.33 per cent overall (0.99% for each nerve encountered). The incidence of transient postoperative hypocalcemia was 13 per cent, with one patient suffering permanent hypoparathyroidism (0.8%). Two patients developed wound hematomas requiring evacuation. The overall complication rate with respect to recurrent laryngeal nerve injury and permanent hypoparathyroidism was consistent with or below that that in recent large series, despite the absence of specialized equipment for nerve monitoring. The success of identifying parathyroid adenoma was 100 per cent, despite the absence of intraoperative parathormone assays, and the decision not to perform radio-guided parathyroidectomy. We conclude that outcomes and complications in thyroid and parathyroid surgical procedures are largely dependent on surgeon skill and experience, and can be performed safely in the community setting by an experienced general surgeon despite the absence of advanced technology in this setting. We encourage all surgeons to continually examine their operative results with all technically demanding procedures when deciding the composition of their individual practices.


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