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Respiratory complications after thyroidectomy and the need for tracheostomy in patients with a large goitre

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Background: Thyroidectomy for a large goitre carries a relatively high risk of postoperative respiratory obstruction which may necessitate tracheostomy.

Methods: One hundred and three patients with a large goitre who underwent thyroidectomy were studied prospectively. The presence or absence of six preoperative predictive factors for the development of serious postoperative respiratory obstruction was recorded. These factors were: goitre for more than 5 years, preoperative recurrent laryngeal nerve palsy, significant tracheal narrowing and/or deviation, retrosternal extension, difficult endotracheal intubation and thyroid cancer. Tracheostomy was performed on the basis of clinical judgement.

Results: Postoperative respiratory complications occurred in 32 patients (31 per cent), and were obstructive in 24 patients and not obstructive in eight. Tracheostomy was necessary in 13 patients (13 per cent). Tracheomalacia was the most common indication (n = 5). There were no deaths. At least four of the six risk factors were present in nine of the 13 patients who underwent tracheostomy compared with two of the 90 patients who did not.

Conclusion: Multiple preoperative risk factors in a patient with a large goitre may be useful in predicting the need for planned tracheostomy following thyroidectomy.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Khartoum Teaching Hospital, University of Khartoum, Sudan 2: Department of Surgery Faculty of Medicine, University of Khartoum, Sudan

Publication date: January 1, 1999

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