Research Article| Volume 36, ISSUE 8, P777-782, August 2010

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Lymph node management in clinically node-negative patients with papillary thyroid carcinoma



      Systematic lymph node dissection in patients with papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) remains controversial. The objective of this study was to study the pattern of lymph node spread in patients with PTC clinically node-negative and then to propose a lymph node management strategy.


      We retrospectively reviewed the records of patients who had undergone total thyroidectomy and a systematic central neck dissection (CND) and lateral neck dissection. Ninety patients with PTC without lymph nodes metastases (LNM) detected on preoperative palpation and ultrasonographic examination were included.


      Forty-one patients (45.5%) had LNM. Twenty-eight patients (31%) had a central and a lateral involvement. Thirteen patients (14.5%) had only a central involvement. All the patients without LNM in the central compartment were also free in the lateral compartment. There was no correlation between LNM status and TNM staging.
      The largest LNM in the central compartment was smaller than or equal to 5 mm in 66% of the cases, and that could explain the lack of sensitivity of the preoperative ultrasonographic examination.


      CND could be considered at preoperative or intraoperative diagnosis of PTC whereas lateral neck dissection should be performed only in patients with preoperative suspected and/or intraoperatively proven LNM. Systematic CND allows an objective evaluation of lymph node status in this central cervical area where the LNM are particularly small and difficult to detect preoperatively.


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