Emergency total thyroidectomy due to non traumatic disease. Experience of a surgical unit and literature review

Mario Testini, Francesco Logoluso, Germana Lissidini, Angela Gurrado, Giuseppe Campobasso, Rocco Cortese, Giuseppe M. De Luca, Ilaria F. Franco, Alessandro De Luca, Giuseppe Piccinni

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Background: Acute respiratory failure due to thyroid compression or invasion of the tracheal lumen is a surgical emergency requiring urgent management. The aim of this paper is to describe a series of six patients treated successfully in the emergency setting with total thyroidectomy due to ingravescent dyspnoea and asphyxia, as well as review related data reported in literature.Methods: During 2005-2010, of 919 patients treated by total thyroidectomy at our Academic Hospital, 6 (0.7%; 4 females and 2 men, mean age: 68.7 years, range 42-81 years) were treated in emergency. All the emergency operations were performed for life-threatening respiratory distress. The clinical picture at admission, clinical features, type of surgery, outcomes and complications are described. Mean duration of surgery was 146 minutes (range: 53-260).Results: In 3/6 (50%) a manubriotomy was necessary due to the extension of the mass into the upper mediastinum. In all cases total thyroidectomy was performed. In one case (16.7%) a parathyroid gland transplantation and in another one (16.7%) a tracheotomy was necessary due to a condition of tracheomalacia. Mean post-operative hospital stay was 6.5 days (range: 2-10 days). Histology revealed malignancy in 4/6 cases (66.7%), showing 3 primitive, and 1 secondary tumors. Morbidity consisted of 1 transient recurrent laryngeal palsy, 3 transient postoperative hypoparathyroidism, and 4 pleural effusions, treated by medical therapy in 3 and by drains in one. There was no mortality.Conclusion: On the basis of our experience and of literature review, we strongly advocate elective surgery for patients with thyroid disease at the first signs of tracheal compression. When an acute airway distress appears, an emergency life-threatening total thyroidectomy is recommended in a high-volume centre.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9
JournalWorld Journal of Emergency Surgery
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 11 2012


  • Acute air obstruction
  • Emergency surgery
  • Hemorrhage
  • Thyroid emergency
  • Thyroid surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Emergency Medicine


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