LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA. – An outpatient procedure may represent an efficacious and safe alternative to surgery for those patients with small papillary thyroid cancers who prefer definitive treatment over the “wait and watch” approach. Further, at one institution, the cost-effective alternative to surgery saved almost $40,000 per patient.
Ultrasound-guided percutaneous ethanol injection (UPEA) of small (cT1N0) intrathyroidal papillary thyroid cancer (SIPC) successfully reduced tumor volume by a median of 92%, eliminated tumor blood flow, and was very well tolerated by a series of 13 patients who received UPEA at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
Dr. Ian D. Hay, a consultant in Mayo’s division of endocrinology, diabetes, metabolism, and nutrition, presented the findings during a poster session at the International Thyroid Congress.
Dr. Hay and his colleagues treated 13 patients with a total of 15 tumors with injections of percutaneous ethanol. The first patient received just one injection; the remaining patients received one injection to each tumor site on each of 2 consecutive days. Five of the tumor foci had less than a 50% reduction in tumor volume at the first follow-up visit, so those tumors were injected a third time.
Patients in the series ranged from 38 to 86 years old (median 45), and five patients had significant comorbidities: one had congestive heart failure and the other four had concomitant unrelated cancers. Tumors were a median 8 mm in size, with volumes ranging from 25 to 676 mm3 (median 140 mm3).
All of the injections were performed under ultrasound guidance, and a median of 0.9 cc of ethanol was injected into each tumor. Ultrasound examination was performed at each follow-up visit to evaluate tumor volume and blood flow. Dr. Hay reported that the procedure was well tolerated: Local neck tenderness resolved within a day or two, and there were no reports of hoarseness or laryngeal nerve palsy.
Patients were followed for a mean 2.0 years (range, 0.4-5.7 years), with a median tumor reduction of 92% (range 46%-100%). For the nine tumors that were still identifiable on ultrasound at the time of reporting, the mean volume had decreased by 73%. Six tumor foci had completely disappeared, and no tumor had detectable blood flow on Doppler exam. Tumor thyroglobulin levels remained stable in all patients, and no nodal metastases were identified, Dr. Hay reported at the meeting, which was held by the American Thyroid Association, Asia-Oceania Thyroid Association, European Thyroid Association, and Latin American Thyroid Society.
Internationally, the approach to managing SIPC varies from lobectomy to near-total thyroidectomy to active surveillance. For patients who prefer definitive management of their tumors but are reluctant to have surgery or who may have significant comorbidities, UPEA may represent a safe alternative, and at significant cost savings compared to surgery: Dr. Hay and his colleagues reported that they estimated the average cost savings at their institution to be over $38,000 per patient. “If prospective trials of observation vs. surgery for SIPC are to occur in the USA, perhaps it could be included as a ‘third arm’ in such trials,” Dr. Hay and his colleagues said.
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