Medline: 10363903

Annals of Surgery 229(6): 880-888, 1999.

Patterns of nodal metastases in palable medullary thyroid carcinoma: recommendations for extent of node dissection.

Moley JF, DeBenedetti MK


To establish the frequency, pattern and location of cervical lymph node metastases from palpable medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC). Recommendations are made regarding the extent of surgery for this tumor. SUMMARY

DATA: Medullary thyroid carcinoma is a tumor of neuroendocrine origin that does not concentrate iodine. Surgical extirpation of the thyroid tumor and cervical node metastases is the only potentially curative therapeutic option. Patterns of node metastases in the neck and guidelines for the extent of dissection for palpable MTC are not well established.

Seventy-three patients underwent thyroidectomy for palpable MTC with immediate or delayed central and bilateral functional neck dissections. The number and location of lymph node metastases in the central (levels VI and VII) and bilateral (levels II to V) nodal groups were noted and were correlated with the size and location of the primary thyroid tumor. Intraoperative assessment of nodal status by palpation and inspection by the surgeon was correlated with results of histologic examination.

Patients with unilateral intrathyroid tumors had lymph node metastases in 81% of central node dissections, 81% of ipsilateral functional (levels II to V) dissections, and 44% of contralateral functional (levels II to V) dissections. In patients with bilateral intrathyroid tumors, nodal metastases were present in 78% of central node dissections, 71% of functional (levels II to V) node dissections ipsilateral to the largest intrathyroid tumor, and 49% of functional (levels II to V) node dissections contralateral to the largest thyroid tumor. The sensitivity of the surgeon's intraoperative assessment for nodal metastases was 64%, and the specificity was 71%.

In this series, >75% of patients with palpable MTC had associated nodal metastases, which often were not apparent to the surgeon. Routine central and bilateral functional neck dissections should be considered in all patients with palpable MTC.

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