After subtotal thyroidectomy with modified radical neck dissection of the affected side, nodal recurrence at the contralateral cervical side indicates a poor prognosis for patients with papillary thyroid cancer. Bilateral modified radical neck dissection is beneficial for patients at high risk for contralateral nodal recurrence.
Design and Setting
Retrospective study of patients with papillary cancer who were treated surgically from January 1, 1970, through December 31, 1995, at the Noguchi Thyroid Clinic and Hospital Foundation, Beppu, Japan.
Patients (N = 1776) had primary tumors greater than 10 mm in maximum diameter and underwent thyroidectomy and ipsilateral modified radical neck dissection with curative intent.
Thirty-two patients (1.8%) developed contralateral lymph node metastases during the mean follow-up period of 12.1 years. The risk factors for contralateral nodal recurrence were male sex, large primary tumor, tumor extension over the isthmus, extracapsular adhesion or invasion to surrounding tissues, and the presence of gross nodal metastasis at initial surgery. These patients had a greater number of distant metastases (31.1% vs 0.7%; P<.001) and a lower 10-year survival rate (83.7% vs 99.3%; P<.001) than patients without nodal recurrence.
Bilateral modified radical neck dissection should be considered for patients with papillary carcinoma who show risk factors for contralateral nodal recurrence, as it could prevent a second operation and may improve their outcome.