FRIDAY, March 30, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Seniors who have thyroid surgery are much more likely than younger patients to suffer serious heart, lung and infection-related complications, according to a new study.
The findings challenge the widely held belief that thyroid surgery (thyroidectomy) is a low-risk operation for older patients, the researchers said.
They analyzed data from 7,915 patients in the United States who had all or part of their thyroid gland removed. The risk of postoperative complications was five times higher in patients 80 and older and two times higher in patients ages 65 to 79, compared to younger patients.
The study appears in the May issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
The number of elderly patients in the United States undergoing thyroid operations is increasing due to an aging population, and rising rates of thyroid cancer and benign thyroid conditions, the researchers said.
"It is important to understand that our study emphasizes the importance of the entire medical system that cares for these elderly patients, not just the surgeon," study lead author Dr. Raymon Grogan, of the University of Chicago, said in a journal news release.
"In our study, elderly patients were susceptible to life-threatening, nonsurgical complications. Thus it is important that an elderly patient undergoing thyroid surgery have an experienced team of primary care physicians, surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses who handle these types of surgeries on a routine, daily basis," Grogan said.
The American Thyroid Association has more about thyroid surgery.