Surgical therapy of the thyroid papillary carcinoma in children: experience with 56 patients < or =16 years old

Claud Spinelli, Aless Bertocchini, Alessand Antonelli, Paolo Miccoli
Journal of Pediatric Surgery 2004, 39 (10): 1500-5

BACKGROUND/PURPOSE: This article is an anatomic, clinical, therapeutic, and prognostic assessment of 56 children 16 years of age or younger, who underwent a surgical operation for thyroid papillary carcinoma from April 1988 to December 2001 in the Department of General Surgery at the University of Pisa. Of these 56 patients, 22 are Belarus children (39%) in whom carcinoma developed after the nuclear accident in Chernobyl in April 1986, whereas 34 (61%) are children with differentiated nonirradiated tumors. The purpose of this work was to compare the group of children who had radiation-induced thyroid carcinoma with the group affected by non-radiation-induced carcinoma to evaluate if there are significant clinical, anatomic, and prognostic differences between them and to identify the best surgical strategy to adopt.

RESULTS: At the time of clinical presentation, the tumor was limited to the thyroid gland in 28 cases (50%), whereas in the others, in 24 cases (43%) metastases in the neck lymph nodes were present or had infiltrated the extrathyroid tissues as was seen in 4 cases (7%). The surgical operation was a total thyroidectomy in 37 cases (66%), whereas in 19 patients with radiation-induced carcinoma it was a hemithyroidectomy followed by a completion of thyroidectomy in Pisa (34%). The histologic examination showed multifocal sites of papillary adenocarcinoma in the gland in 23% of cases, and both lobes of the thyroid gland were involved with tumor in 23% of patients. The postsurgical follow-up showed a mortality rate of 0% and a recurrence rate of 33.5% (64% radiation-induced carcinoma v 3% non-radiation-induced carcinoma; P < .0001). At the moment, 8 of 22 cases (36%) with radiation-induced carcinoma are free of disease versus 33 of 34 (97%) with non-radiation-induced carcinoma (P < .0001).

CONCLUSIONS: These findings show carcinoma of the thyroid in children has a low risk of mortality but a high risk of recurrence. Children with radiation-induced thyroid carcinoma are more likely to have a recurrence of the disease. Total thyroidectomy for the treatment of both radiation-induced and non-radiation-induced carcinomas appears to represent, on the basis of these results, the best therapeutic option.

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