Free Thyroid Transfer: A Novel Procedure to Prevent Radiation-induced Hypothyroidism

Jeffrey Harris, Hani Almarzouki, Brittany Barber, Rufus Scrimger, Jacques Romney, Daniel O'Connell, Mark Urken, Hadi Seikaly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Purpose The incidence of hypothyroidism after radiation therapy for head and neck cancer (HNC) has been found to be ≤53%. Medical treatment of hypothyroidism can be costly and difficult to titrate. The aim of the present study was to assess the feasibility of free thyroid transfer as a strategy for the prevention of radiation-induced damage to the thyroid gland during radiation therapy for HNC. Methods and Materials A prospective feasibility study was performed involving 10 patients with a new diagnosis of advanced HNC undergoing ablative surgery, radial forearm free-tissue transfer reconstruction, and postoperative adjuvant radiation therapy. During the neck dissection, hemithyroid dissection was completed with preservation of the thyroid arterial and venous supply for implantation into the donor forearm site. All patients underwent a diagnostic thyroid technetium scan 6 weeks and 12 months postoperatively to examine the functional integrity of the transferred thyroid tissue. Results Free thyroid transfer was executed in 9 of the 10 recruited patients with advanced HNC. The postoperative technetium scans demonstrated strong uptake of technetium at the forearm donor site at 6 weeks and 12 months for all 9 of the transplanted patients. Conclusions The thyroid gland can be transferred as a microvascular free transfer with maintenance of function. This technique could represent a novel strategy for maintenance of thyroid function after head and neck irradiation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-45
Number of pages4
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2016


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