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Frailty is More Predictive than Age for Complications After Thyroidectomy for Multinodular Goiter

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Risks of thyroidectomy for multinodular goiter (MNG) in older and frail patients are unclear, particularly regarding hematoma and recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN) palsy.


MNG patients undergoing total thyroidectomy were reviewed in the ACS-NSQIP procedure-targeted database (2016–2017). Outcomes were analyzed between adult (age <65), older-adult (age ≥65 and <80), and oldest-old (age ≥80) patients. Five-factor modified frailty index (mFI-5) was calculated based on functional status, diabetes, COPD, CHF, and hypertension, and used in comparative analyses.


A total of 2189 adult, 635 older-adult, and 59 oldest-old patients were included. Compared to adult patients, older-adult and oldest-old patients had higher mFI-5 ≥0.4 rates (14% vs. 22% vs. 31%, respectively, p < 0.001). The overall complication rate was 17.0% and similar between groups; however, oldest-old patients had higher rates of surgical site infection (3.4% vs. 0.3% vs. 0.4%), pneumonia (5.1% vs. 0.3% vs. 0.2%), and readmission (10.2% vs. 2.4% vs. 2.6%) compared to older-adult and adult patients, respectively (p < 0.05). On multivariable analyses of thyroidectomy-specific complications, mFI-5 ≥0.4 (OR 2.5, 95%-CI 1.4–4.4) and bleeding disorder (OR 4.6, 95%-CI 1.3–16.3) were predictive of hematoma, whereas vessel-sealant device usage (OR 0.4, 95%-CI 0.3–0.7) was protective. mFI-5 ≥ 0.4 (OR 1.5, 95%-CI 1.1–2.2), bleeding disorder (OR 2.8, 95%-CI 1.04–7.8), parathyroid autotransplantation (OR 1.7, 95%-CI 1.2–2.6), and prolonged operative time (OR 1.4, 95%-CI 1.02–1.8) were predictive of RLN palsy. Age was not a significant predictor of hematoma or RLN palsy.


Patients ≥80 years old are at increased risk for systemic complications and readmission after thyroidectomy for MNG. Frailty index better risk-stratifies patients than age for thyroidectomy-specific complications.

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We have no further acknowledgements. This research did not receive any financial support from extramural sources.

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Correspondence to Brendan M. Finnerty.

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This study was deemed exempt from review by the Weill Cornell Medicine Institutional Review Board due to the use of nationally available de-identified data. Thus, informed consent is not applicable using this established database.

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Finnerty, B.M., Gray, K.D., Ullmann, T.M. et al. Frailty is More Predictive than Age for Complications After Thyroidectomy for Multinodular Goiter. World J Surg (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00268-020-05422-4

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