Outpatient thyroid surgery safe for most patients, study shows

Outpatient thyroid surgery appears to be safe for the majority of patients, according to a study following 91 patients at two hospitals.

"This is a logical benefit of doing less-invasive surgical techniques," says Dr. David Terris, chair of the Medical College of Georgia Department of Otolaryngology -Head and Neck Surgery. "Now patients are able to go home the same day they have surgery."

With careful selection, 52 of the patients, or 57 percent, were able to leave the hospital about two hours after surgery, according to the study being presented during the 110th Annual Meeting & OTO EXPO of the American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery Sept. 17-20 in Toronto.

Of the patients operated on at MCG Medical Center and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Augusta, Ga., between December 2004 and October 2005, 26 were kept in the hospital just under a day and 13 were admitted.

Smaller incisions, reduced use of surgical drains and prophylactic calcium supplementation have enabled thyroid surgery which just a few years ago required a four-inch neck incision and several days in the hospital to be done safely on an outpatient basis, Dr. Terris says.

"Three or four years ago, the dissection we did, raising skin and muscle flaps and cutting muscle to get the thyroid gland out, meant we had to put a drain in and we had to watch patients carefully overnight or for two or maybe even three nights," he says. "Now that we are doing much less dissection, many patients can go home the same day.

"There are advantages to patients convalescing in their own bed with their own food and their loved ones around," he says. The shortened stay also reduces the risk of hospital-borne infections.

Dr. Terris, a pioneer in minimally invasive and endoscopic thyroid surgery, now typically operates through a three-quarter-inch incision and doesn't use drains. In fact, up to 70 percent of his patients, who tend t

Contact: Toni Baker
Medical College of Georgia

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