Substernal goitre is a goitre (enlarged thyroid gland) with intrathoracic extension.
It remains unclear which goitres are to be termed substernal, but a recently proposed definition is a goitre that requires mediastinal exploration and dissection for complete removal or an intrathoracic component extending more than 3 cm in the thoracic inlet 1.
It may show a superior mediastinal radio-opacity causing the deviation of trachea to opposite site. The superior margin of the radio-opacity/mass is untraceable (cervicothoracic sign).
According to one study the most important CT features in determining the necessity of sternotomy for goitre excision are the presence of an ectopic goitre, total thyroid gland volume and goitre extension below the tracheal carina 3.
Treatment and prognosis
Most anterior substernal thyroid goitres are accessed via a transcervical approach. For goitres that cannot be removed via neck dissection, such as those with complicated anatomic extensions or posterior mediastinal involvement, the surgeon may need to incorporate a partial upper sternotomy and clavicular head resection or mini-thoracotomy for adequate exposure.
A surgeon with an understanding of the radiologic reporting of a substernal goitre on a dedicated chest CT might perform a sternotomy instead of a simple low-collar incision for resection of a substernal goitre.
Practical pearls and pitfalls
A potential pitfall in the assessment of retrosternal extension is the apparent lower position temporarily assumed by the gland when the arms are raised in the case of imaging aimed at the chest. This can be avoided by having the patient's arms by their side when imaging for retrosternal extension 2.
- 1. Terris D, Gourin C. Thyroid and Parathyroid Diseases, Medical and Surgical Management. Thieme Medical Pub. (2008) ISBN:1588905187. Read it at Google Books - Find it at Amazon
- 2. Pollard DB, Weber CW, Hudgins PA. Preoperative imaging of thyroid goiter: how imaging technique can influence anatomic appearance and create a potential for inaccurate interpretation. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2005;26 (5): 1215-7. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol (citation) - Pubmed citation
- 3. Rugiu MG, Piemonte M. Surgical approach to retrosternal goitre: do we still need sternotomy? Acta Otorhinolaryngol Ital. 2009;29 (6): 331-8. - Free text at pubmed - Pubmed citation
- 4. Day T, Chu A, Hoang K. Otolaryngologic Clinics of North America. 2003;36 (1): . doi:10.1016/S0030-6665(02)00157-3
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