Background. The management of patients with papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) remains controversial. We used decision analysis to identify the optimal treatment strategy far patients with PTC stratified by risk-group classification. Methods. We designed a Markov model to compare thyroid lobectomy total thyroidectomy (with adjuvant radioiodine therapy) in low- high-risk patients with PTC. Morbidity recurrence mortality estimates were obtained from the literature. Outcomes were quality-adjusted by using health state preferences. Results. In low-risk patients lobectomy total thyroidectomy resulted in 31.7 and 32.9 quality-adjusted life years (QALYs). Total thyroidectomy was the optimal strategy as long as the relative risk of recurrence after lobectomy was greater than 1.3. Lobectomy became the preferred strategy if subjects were willing to give up 1.5 years of life to avoid thyroid hormone dependency a remote risk of radioiodine-induced malignancy. In high-risk patients lobectomy total thyroidectomy resulted in 11.2 and 16.5 QALYs. Model results were robust to varying the permanent complication rates of initial or completion thyroidectomy the efficacy of adjuvant radioiodine therapy the impact of complications cancer recurrence on quality of life irrespective of risk-group classification. Conclusions. Total thyroidectomy maximized quality-adjusted life expectancy in low- high-risk patients with PTC.
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