Background Routine prophylactic central neck dissection (pCND) after total thyroidectomy (TTX) for low-risk papillary thyroid cancer (PTC) offers the potential to decrease disease recurrence but may increase operative complications. We hypothesized that routine pCND is not cost-effective in low-risk PTC. Methods A Markov transition-state model was constructed to compare TTX with and without pCND. Outcome probabilities, utilities, and costs were estimated on the basis of literature review. The threshold for cost-effectiveness was $100,000 per quality-adjusted life year. Sensitivity analysis was used to examine model uncertainty. Results pCND cost $10,315 and produced an effectiveness of 23.785 quality-adjusted life years. This strategy was more costly and less effective than TTX without pCND and was therefore dominated. pCND became cost-effective when the probability of recurrence increased from 6% to 10.3%, cost of reoperation for recurrence increased from $8,900 to $26,120, or added probabilities of recurrent laryngeal nerve injury and hypoparathyroidism due to pCND were less than 0.20% and 0.18% during 2-way sensitivity analysis. Monte Carlo simulation showed that pCND was not cost-effective in 97.3% of iterations. Conclusion Routine pCND for low-risk PTC is not cost-effective unless the recurrence rate is greater than 10.3%. Application of pCND should be individualized based on risk of recurrence and added complications.
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