Chest X-ray Prior to Thyroidectomy: Is It Really Needed?
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Chest X-ray (CXR) prior to thyroid surgery continues to be routinely obtained at some institutions despite the lack of evidence for its utility. This study aimed to determine the utility of preoperative CXR in patients undergoing thyroidectomy at a single institution.
In total, 594 thyroidectomy patients were included in the study. Demographics, CXR findings, anesthesia records and pathologic data were assessed. We investigated whether difficult intubation or cancer stage correlated with the presence of CXR abnormalities.
Of the total cohort, 83% had a preoperative CXR and 67% had cancer on surgical pathology. In total, 56% had at least one CXR abnormality, the most frequent being skeletal abnormalities (25%), followed by tracheal deviation (16%). Of 78 patients (15.8%) with tracheal deviation on CXR, only 5% had a difficult intubation. Tracheal deviation was more commonly seen in non-cancer cases compared to cancer cases (27 vs. 12%, p < 0.001). CXR impacted management in 4%. Among patients with cancer, a higher T-stage (>2) was associated with higher rate of tracheal deviation compared to T1 (17 vs. 8%, p < 0.001). While patients with non-metastatic cancer (n = 277) compared to metastatic cancer patients had a higher proportion of any abnormality on CXR (57 vs. 44%, p = 0.045), there was no significant difference for tracheal deviation, skeletal abnormalities or lung nodules. Of patients with nodules on CXR (n = 29), only 14% were found to have metastatic disease.
The utility of preoperative CXR in patients undergoing thyroidectomy is very limited. In the climate of value-based care, routine use of this modality may be redundant and should only be ordered if clinically indicated.
We thank Dr. Ahmet Bahadir Ergin for the research design.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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