Indian Journal of Palliative Care
Open access journal 
  Print this page Email this page   Small font sizeDefault font sizeIncrease font size Users online: 2132  
     Home | About | Feedback | Login 
  Current Issue Back Issues Editorial Board Authors and Reviewers How to Subscribe Advertise with us Contact Us Analgesic Prescription  
  Navigate Here 
 Resource Links
  »  Similar in PUBMED
 »  Search Pubmed for
 »  Search in Google Scholar for
 »Related articles
  »  Article in PDF (989 KB)
  »  Citation Manager
  »  Access Statistics
  »  Reader Comments
  »  Email Alert *
  »  Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

  In this Article
 »  Abstract
 »  Introduction
 »  Case Report
 »  Discussion
 »  Conclusions
 »  References
 »  Article Figures

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded147    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 4    

Recommend this journal


Table of Contents 
Year : 2011  |  Volume : 17  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 67-69

Emergency total thyroidectomy for bleeding anaplastic thyroid carcinoma: A viable option for palliation

Department of Surgery, University College of Medical Sciences and Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, Delhi, India

Date of Web Publication29-Mar-2011

Correspondence Address:
Sunil Kumar
Department of Surgery, University College of Medical Sciences and Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, Delhi
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0973-1075.78452

Rights and Permissions

 » Abstract 

Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma (ATC) is a rare and highly aggressive thyroid neoplasm. Bleeding from tumor is an uncommon, but potentially life-threatening complication requiring sophisticated intervention facilities which are not usually available at odd hours in emergency. We report the case of a 45-year-old woman who presented with exsanguinating hemorrhage from ATC and was treated by emergency total thyroidectomy. The patient is well three months postoperatively. Emergency total thyroidectomy is a viable option for palliation in ATC presenting with bleeding.

Keywords: Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma, Thyroidectomy, Active bleeding

How to cite this article:
Kumar S, Joshi MK. Emergency total thyroidectomy for bleeding anaplastic thyroid carcinoma: A viable option for palliation. Indian J Palliat Care 2011;17:67-9

How to cite this URL:
Kumar S, Joshi MK. Emergency total thyroidectomy for bleeding anaplastic thyroid carcinoma: A viable option for palliation. Indian J Palliat Care [serial online] 2011 [cited 2021 Jan 19];17:67-9. Available from:

 » Introduction Top

Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma (ATC) is a rare but rapidly fatal disease, owing to extensive locoregional spread and early distant metastasis. Most patients die of upper airway obstruction, with hemorrhage as another known cause of fatality. Management of emergent and life-threatening external bleeding from ATC is challenging and reported scarcely in the literature. It usually requires resources and expertise which may not be available in an average setup in a developing country, especially in emergency situations. We report our solitary experience of performing emergency total thyroidectomy for external bleeding from ATC and propose it as a modality for palliation of this fatal complication.

 » Case Report Top

A 45-year-old woman presented to surgical emergency with profuse bleeding from a mass in the front of the neck. The mass, present since one and half years, had rapidly increased in size over two months and had started bleeding 2 h prior to hospitalization. On examination, she was conscious, oriented, pale, and dehydrated with a low volume pulse of 120 beats/ min and blood pressure of 90/70 mmHg. Local examination revealed an ulcero-proliferative growth of 12 Χ 8 cm in anterior part of neck with multiple bleeding points [Figure 1]. She was resuscitated with IV fluids and three units whole blood transfusion. Written consent for anesthesia and surgery including that for death on table was obtained and broadspectrum antibiotics were started. The patient was placed in thyroidectomy position and a long elliptical incision was made. A large blood clot was found in subcutaneous plane. Following clot evacuation, three pulsating bleeding points were seen which were controlled by suture ligation. Deeper dissection revealed the mass to be adhered to the left common carotid artery, trachea and esophagus. The mass was dissected free from these structures, although small bits of tumor which were inseparably adherent could not be removed. Bared carotid arteries and internal jugular veins were covered by flaps of residual sternocleidomastoid muscle. The large skin defect was covered by skin graft taken from the right thigh [Figure 2]. The histologic diagnosis was ATC. Postoperative course was uneventful. A chest X-ray and ultrasonography of abdomen, done 10 days after surgery, revealed no pulmonary or hepatic metastasis. Treatment with combination of external beam radiotherapy (EBRT) (60.8 Gy in 32 fractions over 21 days) and chemotherapy (doxorubicin and cisplatin) was begun 4 weeks postoperatively. The patient is disease-free 3 months postoperatively.
Figure 1: Thyroid mass with active bleeding

Click here to view
Figure 2: Raw area following thyroidectomy covered with skin graft

Click here to view

 » Discussion Top

ATC is rare and comprises only 1%-3% of all thyroid neoplasm. It is one of the most aggressive, lethal and difficult malignancies to treat, with very high mortality rates. Median survival is 4-5 months from the time of diagnosis. Majority die of aggressive loco-regional disease, causing upper airway obstruction. [1] Other causes of fatality include circulatory failure, hemorrhage, and respiratory insufficiency.

Hemorrhage accounts for 15% mortality. [2] Since external bleeding is a rare complication, a universally agreed treatment modality to deal with it does not exist. Selective embolization of thyroid arteries (SETA) is a safe and minimally invasive method for palliation of ATC; it can also be used to control intractable hemorrhage. [3] Successful treatment of thyroid artery erosion by esophageal carcinoma using superselective catheterization and embolization of the bleeding vessel has also been reported. [4] EBRT has also been used with success for achieving hemostasis in various malignancies including carcinoma of head and neck, lung, skin, vagina, rectum, and urinary bladder. [5] Radiation causes sclerosis of vessels, thus promoting hemostasis. Although the dose of hemostatic radiotherapy differs depending on the site affected, the optimal dose and fractionation remains controversial. It is widely agreed that lower total doses with larger daily fractions over short time achieves hemostasis better with less side effects. [6] As SETA and EBRT were not available to us in the emergency, we could not use these in our patient. Recurrent laryngeal nerve may either be involved by tumor or damaged during difficult thyroidectomy, written consent for tracheostomy must be obtained and the surgeon should be prepared for the same.

This is the first human case report where total thyroidectomy has been performed to treat actively bleeding ATC, although one such case has been reported in a dog by Slensky et al.[7] Earlier, thyroidectomy has been performed to deal with post-traumatic bleeding from thyroid gland. [8],[9] As radiation is better tolerated by myocutaneous flaps compared to skin grafts, if possible the raw area should be covered by myocutaneous flaps.

 » Conclusions Top

Total thyroidectomy is a viable option for palliation in patients presenting with actively bleeding ATC if hemostatic radiotherapy and SETA are unavailable.

 » References Top

1.Blaivas M, Hom DB, Younger JG. Thyroid gland hematoma after blunt cervical trauma. Am J Emerg Med 1999;17:348-50.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.De vita. Thyroid neoplasm. In: Devita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, editors. Cancer- principles and practice of oncology. 8 th ed, 2008. p. 1676-7.   Back to cited text no. 2
3.Kitamura Y, Shimizu K, Nagahama M, Sugino K, Ozaki O, Mimura T, et al. Immediate causes of death in thyroid carcinoma: Clinicopathological analysis of 161 fatal cases. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1999;84:4043-9.   Back to cited text no. 3
4.Oka Y, Nishijima J, Azuma T, Inada K, Miyazaki S, Nakano H, et al. Blunt thyroid trauma with acute haemorrhage and respiratory distress. J Emerg Med 2007;32:381-5.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Pereira J, Phan T. Management of bleeding in patients with advanced cancer. Oncologist 2004;9:561-70.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Asakura H, Hashimoto T, Harada H, Mizumoto M, Furutani K, Hasuike N, et al. Palliative radiotherapy for bleeding from advanced gastric cancer: Is a schedule of 30 Gy in 10 fractions adequate? J Cancer Res Clin Oncol 2010 in press.   Back to cited text no. 6
7.Slensky KA, Volk SW, Schwarz T, Duda L, Mauldin EA, Silverstein D. Acute severe hemorrhage secondary to arterial invasion in a dog with thyroid carcinoma. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2003;223:649-53.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Tazbir J, Dedecjus M, Kaurzel Z, Lewiñski A, Brzeziñski J. Selective embolization of thyroid arteries (SETA) as a palliative treatment of inoperable anaplastic thyroid carcinoma (ATC). Neuro Endocrinol Lett 2005;26:401-6.  Back to cited text no. 8
9.Von Rahden BH, Stigler B, Weiss W, Stein HJ. Thyroid artery erosion by esophageal cancer: management with interventional radiology. Gastrointest Surg 2007;11:945-7.  Back to cited text no. 9


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]

This article has been cited by
1 Two Cases of Cervical Hemorrhage with Upper Airway Obstruction: A Life-Threatening Condition
Enrico Maria Amadei,Laura Benedettini,Ottavio Piccin
Case Reports in Medicine. 2014; 2014: 1
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
2 Diagnosing Thyroid Lymphoma: Steroid Administration May Result in Rapid Improvement of Dyspnea : A Report of Two Cases
Oliver S. Eng,Sebastian Lesniak,Tomer Davidov,Stanley Z. Trooskin
International Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2014; 12(1)
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
3 Emergency total thyroidectomy due to non traumatic disease. Experience of a surgical unit and literature review
Testini, M. and Logoluso, F. and Lissidini, G. and Gurrado, A. and Campobasso, G. and Cortese, R. and De Luca, G.M. and Franco, I.F. and De Luca, A. and Piccinni, G.
World Journal of Emergency Surgery. 2012; 7(1)
4 Emergency total thyroidectomy due to non traumatic disease. Experience of a surgical unit and literature review
Mario Testini,Francesco Logoluso,Germana Lissidini,Angela Gurrado,Giuseppe Campobasso,Rocco Cortese,Giuseppe De Luca,Ilaria Franco,Alessandro De Luca,Giuseppe Piccinni
World Journal of Emergency Surgery. 2012; 7(1): 9
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


Print this article  Email this article
Online since 1st October '05
Published by Wolters Kluwer - Medknow