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Thyroid surgery safe for older patients, study finds
Date:10/19/2009

AUGUSTA, Ga. Thyroid surgery is safe for older patients, say physicians who found only slight differences in rates of complications and hospital readmissions in a multi-year study.

"We were pleasantly surprised," says Dr. Melanie W. Seybt, endocrine-head and neck surgeon at the Medical College of Georgia and first author in the issue of Archives of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery. "We suspected older patients might be admitted to the hospital more often, have more complications and more cancer."

But their study of 428 thyroidectomy patients at MCGHealth Medical Center and the Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center between November 2003 and December 2007, including 44 patients over age 65 and 86 between ages 21-35, showed few differences in the two groups.

Surgeons found:

  • They could do outpatient surgery in both groups at essentially the same rate, 45.5 percent in the elderly and 51.2 percent in younger patients

  • Similar complication rates, with 12.5 percent of older patients having transient problems with low calcium versus 11.1 percent of younger patients.

  • The thyroid growth was suspected to be malignant in 4.5 percent of elderly patients and 2.3 percent of younger patients. Final pathology revealed cancer in 27.3 percent of elderly patients and 18.6 percent of older patients.

  • Elderly patients had a slightly higher hospital readmission rate 4.5 percent versus 1.2 percent but readmissions were related to the transient problems with calcium levels not age-related complications.

  • Neither group had post-operative bleeding or permanent vocal cord paralysis.

She hopes the findings will decrease concerns among patients and practitioners about the safety of thyroidectomies in the growing elderly population, noting that thorough preoperative screening, important at any age, likely helped minimize adverse reactions in their
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Contact: Toni Baker
tbaker@mcg.edu
706-721-4421
Medical College of Georgia
Source:Eurekalert  

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