Newswise — Patients 80 years old and over are significantly more likely to have complications following thyroid surgery than younger patients, according to data to be presented on Oct. 3, 2008 at the 79th Annual Meeting of the American Thyroid Association (ATA) in Chicago, IL.

The likelihood of developing a thyroid nodule, a small lump, increases with age and in part represents the aging process of the thyroid gland. Approximately 5% of all nodules are cancerous and are often removed surgically.

A team of researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Mass. retrospectively reviewed the records of 90 patients 80 years and older who underwent thyroid surgery between July 2001 and October 2007 for benign disease, malignancy, or for somewhat suspicious lesions. Using SAS statistical software, they then compared these patients' records with the records of randomly selected patients between the ages of 18 and 79 who underwent surgery during the same time period.

Researchers found that patients 80 years and older were significantly more likely to have complications related to surgery than younger patients. Complications unique to patients 80 years and older included several serious and life threatening conditions, such as heart failure, atrial fibrillation, pneumonia, tracheotomy, urosepsis, the need for blood transfusion, wound infection, and ischemic colitis.

"While our study shows that thyroid surgery is safe in octogenarians, and no patients died from thyroid surgery, these patients are at a greatly increased risk of serious complications," said Sareh Parangi, M.D., and Michal Mekel, M.D., investigators of the study. "These data underscore the need for early intervention among the elderly, improved risk stratification among patients who are older than 80 years, and a multi-disciplinary approach to treatment that includes geriatric specialists."

About the American Thyroid Association (ATA)The American Thyroid Association (ATA) is the lead organization in promoting thyroid health and understanding thyroid biology. The ATA values scientific inquiry, clinical excellence, public service, education, collaboration, and collegiality.

A non-profit medical society founded in 1923, the ATA fulfills its mission through supporting excellence and innovation in research, clinical care, education, and public health. ATA members are physicians and scientists who work to enhance the understanding of thyroid physiology and pathophysiology, improve the diagnosis and treatment of thyroid diseases, and promote the education of physicians, patients, and the public about thyroid disorders.

Thyroid diseases are among the most common disorders of the endocrine system, affecting almost 13 million Americans alone. The ATA has extensive online information for patients on thyroid disease (in English and Spanish) serving the clinician as a resource for patients and the public who look for reliable information on the internet.

To learn more about the ATA, visit:

Distribution of information regarding research presented at ATA meetings is thought to be of interest to the public, however, this does not imply official endorsement by the ATA.

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79th Annual Meeting of the American Thyroid Association