Treatment and Prevention of Recurrence of Multinodular Goiter: An Evidence-based Review of the Literature
The current study was done to analyze our experience with recurrent goiter. Prevention must be stressed because reoperations of the thyroid gland present technical difficulties and are associated with an increased risk of hypoparathyroidism and permanent hoarseness. Nodular recurrences occurred in 36 of 1,456 patients (2.5 percent) who underwent thyroidectomy between 1968 and 1983. All patients had the initial operation at Jean Bernard Hospital, Poitiers, France, and had follow-up evaluation from five to 20 years. Multinodular goiter accounted for 70 percent of the recurrences. Sixty percent of the recurrences were in patients with multinodular goiters. Recurrent goiter was usually first detected about eight years after thyroidectomy. Thirty patients with recurrence had reoperations. Two patients had paralysis of the vocal cord and one patient had permanent hypoparathyroidism. Recurrent goiter may occur because of the development of new nodules (true recurrence) or because of the growth of "residual" or persistent macroscopic or microscopic nodules left at the previous thyroid operation. Intraoperative digital palpation of the entire thyroid gland is essential for detecting residual macroscopic thyroid nodules, and all enlarged nodules should be removed. Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) suppressive therapy is recommended by some authorities to prevent "true" recurrences, although its efficacy is debated. Since recurrence is uncommon in the current series, perhaps TSH suppressive therapy should only be used in high-risk patients. In the current experience, only the multinodular character of the nodules in euthyroid patients has a significant correlation with subsequent development of recurrent goiter (p < 0.01), and one must consider patients with multinodular goiter at risk for recurrence. Once TSH treatment is begun, it will logically be continued for life. Total thyroidectomy has been recommended by some endocrine surgeons for treating patients with multinodular goiter. We prefer subtotal thyroidectomy and reserve total thyroidectomy for patients when no normal thyroid tissue can be preserved because only 2.5 percent of the patients in the current study had recurrent goiter. Prevention of residual nodules is probably best assured by systematic palpation during operation of the two thyroid lobes. This considerably lessens the risk of recurrence. Since nodular recurrences occurred in only 2.5 percent of the patients in the current study, although multinodular goiter must be considered at risk for recurrence, we do not recommend systematic total thyroidectomy in multinodular goiter.