Tobias Carling,1 Sally E. Carty,2 Maria M. Ciarleglio,3 David S. Cooper,4 Gerard M. Doherty,5 Lawrence T. Kim,6 Richard T. Kloos,7 Ernest L. Mazzaferri Sr.,8 Peter N. Peduzzi,3 Sanziana A. Roman,1 Rebecca S. Sippel,9 Julie A. Sosa,1 Brendan C. Stack Jr.,10
David L. Steward,11 Ralph P. Tufano,12 R. Michael Tuttle,13 and Robert Udelsman,1
for the American Thyroid Association Surgical Affairs Committee
Background: The role of prophylactic central lymph node dissection in papillary thyroid cancer (PTC) is controversial in patients who have no pre- or intraoperative evidence of nodal metastasis (clinically N0; cN0). The controversy relates to its unproven role in reducing recurrence rates while possibly increasing morbidity (permanent hypoparathyroidism and unintentional recurrent laryngeal nerve injury).
Methods and Results: We examined the design and feasibility of a multi-institutional prospective randomized controlled trial of prophylactic central lymph node dissection in cN0 PTC. Assuming a 7-year study with 4 years of enrollment, 5 years of average follow-up, a recurrence rate of 10% after 7 years, a 25% relative reduction in the rate of the primary endpoint (newly identified structural disease; i.e., persistent, recurrent, or distant metastatic disease) with central lymph node dissection and an annual dropout rate of 3%, a total of 5840 patients would have to be included in the study to achieve at least 80% statistical power. Similarly, given the low rates of morbidity, several thousands of patients would need to be included to identify a significant difference in rates of permanent hypoparathyroidism and unintentional recurrent laryngeal nerve injury.
Conclusion: Given the low rates of both newly identified structural disease and morbidity after surgery for cN0 PTC, prohibitively large sample sizes would be required for sufficient statistical power to demonstrate significant differences in outcomes. Thus, a prospective randomized controlled trial of prophylactic central lymph node dissection in cN0 PTC is not readily feasible.
Authors are listed in alphabetical order.