Minimally invasive surgery for thyroid disease may be fit for children

Research conducted at Georgia Health Sciences University indicates that minimally invasive surgery for thyroid disease, a procedure once only used among adults, appears to have few complications for children and teens.

A study published in the journal Annals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology found that approximately 70 percent of pediatric cases of minimally invasive thyroid surgery (MITS) performed over a six-year period were outpatient, compared to typical thyroid surgeries for children, most of which require extended hospitalization.

MITS usually involves an incision on the neck of slightly more than an inch in length. Researchers noted that the minimization of scar tissue makes any future thyroid surgeries less complicated.

The study reports that side effects related to MITS were minimal and typically transitory. Overall, the 23 children who received MITS suffered no permanent vocal cord paralysis or lowering of serum calcium levels in the blood, which are two common side effects of thyroid surgery.

More than 40 percent of pediatric participants who received the minimally invasive surgery had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, primarily with papillary thyroid carcinomas. In comparison, just 22 percent of adults who underwent MITS during that period had thyroid cancer.

Papillary thyroid cancer is the most common form of the disease, affecting at least 70 percent of all Americans diagnosed with thyroid carcinomas, according to the Columbia University Department of Surgery.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) states that papillary thyroid cancer is typically diagnosed before the age of 45.

The study's authors found that half of pediatric MITS patients had cancerous nodules of some sort in their thyroid glands, compared to 5 percent of adults. The team stated that this situation typically merits thyroid removal and radioactive iodine therapy, since the likelihood of thyroid overgrowth only increases with age.

Researchers concluded that besides reducing recovery time and keeping complication rates low, pediatric MITS can prevent the social embarrassment associated with long or prominent scars.

Every year in the U.S., nearly 45,000 people discover that they have thyroid cancer. One in 111 Americans will be diagnosed with a thyroid carcinoma in his or her lifetime, according to the NCI.