Medical College of Georgia Logo According to a novel study, thyroid surgery seems to be safe for older patients in contrast to younger patients who suffer from more complications.

It was estimated that the segment of the U.S. population older than 65 has increased by nearly 90 percent during the past 30 years. It was noted that surgery is generally considered more dangerous in older patients. However, the high possibility could be due to co-occurring illnesses rather than age alone.

Melanie W. Seybt, M.D at Medical College of Georgia, Augusta stated that, “As the population ages, surgery is being performed on geriatric patients more frequently on an elective basis than in decades past, for both malignant and benign diseases.

“Thyroid disorders, particularly those requiring surgical intervention, represent many of the conditions that must be managed, although little has been written about the geriatric patient population and the special challenges they may pose,” elucidates Melanie.

The study experts were believed to have examined data from approximately 86 young patients who were between the ages 21 to 35yrs and 44 old patients who were older 65. Apparently, the average age of young was 29.5 years whereas of old patients was 71.3years.

Moreover, these patients were noted to have undergone thyroidectomy which was performed by a single surgeon between the year 2003 and 2007. Thyroidectomy is known to be a surgery where all or part of the thyroid is removed. The study authors seemed to have evaluated pathology reports, complications and the requirement for admission or readmission to the hospital.

The study findings revealed that no patients in either group died or suffered from permanent vocal cord paralysis. Additionally, the rates of complications appear to be similar in both the groups. For example, 12.5 percent of older patients and 11.1 percent of younger patients were noted to have experienced temporarily low blood calcium levels. Moreover, the rates of temporary vocal cord paralysis may perhaps have been 2.9 percent among older and about 3.9 percent among younger patients.

Melanie concluded by saying that, “Thyroid surgeons will be faced more often with the prospect of elective thyroid surgery in patients of advanced age as an increasingly aged population emerges and the prevalence of thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer increases. Thyroid surgery in elderly patients is safe and no more dangerous than surgery in youthful patients. Careful preoperative management of comorbid (co-occurring) conditions is essential to performing safe thyroidectomy in patients of all ages.”

Furthermore, it was observed that older patients did have increased rates of readmission to the hospital i.e. 4.5 percent as compared to 1.2 percent, but the difference was not statistically noteworthy. In addition, none of the readmissions seem to have been attributable to an age-related cause. Instead it may have been due to hypocalcemia that is low calcium levels.

The findings of the study have been published in the Archives of Otolaryngology- Head and Neck Surgery.