Background: The effectiveness of prophylactic central neck dissection (pCND) in the treatment of patients with papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) to prevent local recurrence is controversial. We performed a meta-analysis to assess the effect of pCND on local recurrence in PTC. Methods: Exhaustive search of online search engines identified five retrospective studies that compared the local recurrence rates of PTC in patients without clinically detectable nodal disease in patients undergoing thyroidectomy + pCND (group A) to those undergoing thyroidectomy alone (group B). A meta-analysis was performed by the fixed effects method. Recurrence was documented by imaging, thyroglobulin detection, or reoperation. Location of recurrence was identified in either the central or lateral neck compartment. Results: A total of 1264 patients were included, 396 in group A and 868 in group B. Follow-up ranged from 6 months to 27 years. The overall recurrence rate was 2.02% in group A versus 3.92% in group B (odds ratio [OR] = 1.05, 95% confidence interval [95% CI] 0.48-2.31). The recurrence rate in the central neck compartment in group A was 1.86% compared to 1.68% in group B (OR = 1.31, 95% CI 0.44-3.91). The recurrence rate in the lateral neck compartment in group A was 3.73% compared to 3.79% in group B (OR = 1.21, 95% CI 0.52-2.75). There was no statistically significant difference in the OR in the local recurrence between the two groups. Conclusions: This meta-analysis indicates that pCND does not greatly reduce local recurrence in thyroid cancer. However, the available studies have substantial limitations and a prospective multicenter study to determine the indications for pCND is warranted.
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