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According to an article recently published in the Annals of Surgery, local anesthesia reduces hospital stay and medical costs compared to general anesthesia in patients undergoing a thyroidectomy. Furthermore, local anesthesia produces comparable outcomes to general anesthesia.

The thyroid is a gland located at the bottom of the throat. It is responsible for producing hormones that aid in metabolism. The surgical removal of the thyroid, or thyroidectomy, may be part of a treatment strategy for some patients with thyroid cancer.

General anesthesia is often used for patients undergoing a thyroidectomy; however, general anesthesia carries certain risks. As well, it requires more follow-up care immediately after surgery, longer hospital stays, and increased medical costs. Researchers continue to evaluate various types of surgery that may be performed under local anesthesia; with this approach, patients are numbed in the area of the surgery while remaining conscious during the procedure (in contrast to general anesthesia where the patient is unconscious).

Researchers from Texas recently conducted a clinical trial to compare outcomes of local to general anesthesia in patients undergoing a thyroidectomy. This trial included 58 patients; half received local anesthesia with monitored anesthesia care and half received general anesthesia. Eighty-eight percent of patients were treated as outpatients, meaning they went home the same day of surgery.

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  • Operative and clinical results were similar between the two groups of patients.
  • Patient satisfaction was similar between the two groups of patients.
  • Hospital stay following surgery was significantly shorter among the group of patients who received local anesthesia, resulting in a potential reduction in medical costs and reduction in the use of medical resources.

The researchers concluded that for some patients with thyroid cancer who are to undergo a thyroidectomy, local anesthesia results in comparable clinical outcomes with a reduction in post-operative hospital stays. Patients with thyroid cancer may wish to speak with their physician regarding their individual risks and benefits of local anesthesia.

Reference: Snyder S, Roberson C, Cummings C, Rajab M. Local Anesthesia With Monitored Anesthesia Care vs General Anesthesia in Thyroidectomy. Annals of Surgery. 2006; 141:167-173.

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