1. Indiana University Health, Goshen Center for Cancer Care, Goshen, Indiana, USA;
2. University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;
3. Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington DC, USA;
4. Montefiore Medical Center, New York, USA.
Background: Heterogeneity of surgical care exists among surgeons regarding the conduct of thyroidectomy and parathyroidectomy.
Aim: To identify the current patterns of technical conduct of operation amongst surgeons performing thyroidectomy or parathyroidectomy.
Methods: A survey was designed and beta-tested on five surgical oncologists for face validity and usability. The final version of this survey was constructed and disseminated using the professional version of the internet-based survey mechanism Survey Monkey and consisted of two eligibility questions and 22 questions regarding thyroidectomy/parathyroidectomy treatment patterns. The survey was disseminated electronically to American Association of Endocrine Surgeons (AAES) and American College of Surgeons (ACS) members. Survey results were collected, tabulated and analyzed. Responses among groups were compared using two sample T- tests. Significant responses were subsequently analyzed in generalized linear models to ascertain if significance remained with control of covariates.
Results: Of 420 initial web survey visits, 236 (56.2%) surveys were completed. The majority of respondents reported being 'fellowship trained', experienced and 'high-volume' surgeons. The most common fellowship trainings were endocrine (46%), oncology (22%), head & neck (13%), or combinations of the three fellowships (14%). Most surgeons reported that they dissect the course of the recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN) without using neuromonitoring. Nearly a third of respondents reported routinely using the Harmonic scalpel during the conduct of the operations. Significant differences emerged regarding operative technique according to residency training type, fellowship training, surgeon volume, and practice setting, but only those associated with residency training type and annual surgeon surgical volume remained significant within generalized linear models.
Conclusion: Most surgeons who responded to this survey do not routinely use RLN neuromonitoring and most dissect the RLN during thyroidectomy. There are multiple variations in technique according to surgical training, surgeon volume, experience, and practice setting; however, only differences by residency training type and surgeon volume remained correlated significantly to surgeons' approaches to thyroidectomy and parathyroidectomy in multivariate analysis. These data may be useful for surgeons reflecting upon their individual practice, as well as for further defining current standards of practice from a medico legal perspective.
Keywords: thyroidectomy, survey, neuromonitoring, laryngeal nerve.