Surgical management of cytologically indeterminate thyroid nodules
Nodules in the thyroid are frequent. Preoperative investigations including fine-needle cytology and ultrasound cannot in all patients rule out malignancy. Thus, surgical excision for histopathologic examination is often needed. In this narrative review, we examine aspects of the surgical management of indeterminate thyroid nodules, using a comprehensive review of the available literature. The authors manually searched PubMed for relevant literature, including recently published guidelines. Hemithyroidectomy without lymph node dissection remains the recommended management in indeterminate thyroid nodules, i.e., the complete removal of one lobe of the thyroid, for indeterminate thyroid nodules, defined as nodules with fine-needle cytology fulfilling the criteria of Bethesda III or IV categories. At surgery, it is important to preserve the recurrent and superior laryngeal nerves, and intraoperative neuromonitoring is a useful adjunct. Recent data also suggest that parathyroid autofluorescent techniques are promising tools for parathyroid preservation. There is still lack of specific preoperative investigations to rule in or out central lymph node metastasis. Intraoperative frozen section of lymph nodes can be valuable, but prophylactic or diagnostic central lymph node dissection is not routinely recommended. Outcomes after thyroid surgery are better with high-volume surgeons and institutions. Surgery is probably best performed by high-volume surgeons in institutions with on-site expert pathologists and with technical adjuncts available for nerve and parathyroid preservation. Day-care surgery may be an option for selected patients.