Complication Rates After Thyroidectomy Lower With High-Volume Surgeons

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Patients have fewer complications after thyroidectomy with high-volume surgeons.
Patients have fewer complications after thyroidectomy with high-volume surgeons.

(HealthDay News) — Patients who undergo thyroidectomy are less likely to suffer complications if their surgeon performs many such surgeries each year, according to a study presented at the American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress 2015 in Chicago.

The study included data for 16,954 American adults who had thyroidectomy between 1998 and 2009. 

Overall, 6% of the patients had complications after their surgery. Complication rates were 4% among patients whose surgeon performed 25 or more total thyroidectomies a year (high-volume surgeons) and 6% among patients whose surgeon did fewer than 25 such surgeries a year. Only 19% of the patients in the study were operated on by high-volume surgeons. The median number of total thyroidectomies performed by surgeons was seven.

The researchers calculated that patients undergoing the operation by a surgeon who performed only one thyroidectomy per year had a 65% increased risk for complications, compared with patients of high-volume surgeons. More than half the surgeons in the study performed just one thyroidectomy per year. 

While the researchers only found an association between a physician's surgery rates and thyroidectomy complications, they reported that, on average, patients with low-volume surgeons had twice as long a hospital stay — 2 days vs 1 day. 

They also had higher hospital costs — $6,375 vs $5,863.

"Although the surgeon's experience is one of the most predictive factors for patient outcomes from total thyroidectomy, the number of cases that defines a high-volume thyroid surgeon was unclear," senior investigator Julie Ann Sosa, MD, chief of endocrine surgery at the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, said in a news release from the American College of Surgeons.


  1. Adam M, Thomas SM, Roman SA, Sosa JA. Is There a Minimum Case Volume of Thyroidectomies Associated with Superior Outcomes? An Analysis of 37,118 Cases in the US. J Am Coll Surg. 2015;221(4S1):S60-S61.
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