What improvements have led to a decreased mortality rate for thyroid surgery?

Updated: Feb 27, 2020
  • Author: Pramod K Sharma, MD; Chief Editor: Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA  more...
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During the 1800s, the mortality rate from thyroid surgery was approximately 40%. Most deaths were caused by infection and hemorrhage. Sterile surgical arenas, general anesthesia, and improved surgical techniques have made death from thyroid surgery extremely rare today.

Theodor Kocher, Theodor Billroth, and William S. Halsted are just a few of the names intimately associated with the development and refinement of thyroid surgery. Their contributions helped to make thyroid surgery less feared and better understood than it once was.

Although the complication rate of thyroid surgery has certainly decreased, surgeons must nevertheless maintain a healthy respect for the possibility of complications. Patients must be appropriately and preoperatively counseled regarding potential complications. All must be well aware of the surgical risks they are undertaking. By developing a thorough understanding of the anatomy and of the ways to prevent each complication, the surgeon can minimize each patient's risk. The surgeon's experience is a significant contributor to various complications during thyroid surgery. At the same time, several reports have pointed out the safety of thyroid procedures performed at residency-training centers, where surgeries are performed under the supervision of an experienced surgeon.

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