Need a good reason to take extra care of your thyroid? Here’s a good one: If something goes wrong — surgery is risky. But if you absolutely must have it removed, there is one very important thing you must ask your surgeon…
And that’s the number of thyroidectomies he performs in a year’s time. The more, the better.
Thyroidectomy is one of the most common operations Americans have. Reasons for the surgery vary from cancer, to an over-active thyroid to an enlarged thyroid—but 51 percent of surgeons who perform this surgery only do one per year. That lack of experience doesn’t add up to anything good for you.
“This is a very technical operation, and patients should feel empowered to ask their surgeons how many procedures they do each year, on average,” said Julie A. Sosa, M.D., chief of endocrine surgery at Duke. “Surgeons have an ethical responsibility to report their case numbers. While this is not a guarantee of a positive outcome, choosing a more experienced surgeon certainly can improve the odds that the patient will do well.”
Thyroidectomies and complications
Dr. Sosa was the lead author of a study that evaluated data from 16,954 patients who had thyroidectomies between 1998 and 2009 and were enrolled in a national database from the Health Care Utilization Project.
In analyzing the case volumes of 4,627 surgeons, she and fellow researchers found an association between the number of procedures surgeons performed each year and rates of complications. Notably, patients of surgeons who performed fewer than 25 thyroidectomies a year were 1.5 times more likely to experience complications.
“Thyroid nodules, which can give rise to thyroid cancer, are a growing health issue, partly because we have better imaging and are able to discover them more easily. As many as 68 percent of healthy adults have thyroid nodules, and this, in part, has significantly increased the number of biopsies and surgeries performed in the U.S.” says Sosa.
“Surgeon volume is one factor doctors and patients should consider as we talk about value-based care — helping patients get appropriate care at an optimized cost and with fewer complications,” she adds.
Boost your thyroid health
But let’s hope you don’t have to have surgery. One thing you can do is eat the foods and take the supplements that will boost your thyroid health.
According to Dr. Michael Cutler, the following foods can do just that:
- Animal protein from pastured beef, eggs from range chickens, mercury-free fish and shellfish, cheeses, eggs and dairy, as well as protein in fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts help support healthy thyroid function.
- Fresh organic produce from leafy greens, green beans, colorful vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts and non-gluten grains such as brown rice, oats, buckwheat, quinoa, cornmeal, sorghum, and amaranth.
- Healthy oils such as coconut oil, avocado, olive oil and others high in omega-3.
But steer clear of goitrogenic foods that can cause you problems, like cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, turnip, Chinese cabbage, kale, spinach, rapeseed, common radish, horseradish, rutabaga, wasabi, capers, mustard oil, papaya, watercress, and other less-known plants.
See Dr. Cutler’s recent article, Supplements and foods that boost your thyroid — and what to avoid to see what vitamins and herbs are most beneficial.