Background: Graves disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism in children. Medical therapy, radioiodine ablation, and thyroidectomy are all treatment options. To evaluate the safety and efficacy of operative therapy, we updated our operative experience with pediatric Graves disease at a single tertiary care center. Methods: The medical records of children <18 years old who underwent thyroidectomy for Graves disease between 1986-2003 were reviewed. Results: We identified 78 patients (median age, 13.8 years; 87% female). The most common presenting signs and symptoms included heat intolerance (61%), decreased academic performance (50%), tremor (49%), and ophthalmopathy (43%). All patients had clinical and laboratory evidence of autoimmune thyrotoxicosis. Sixty-nine percent chose operative therapy because of failure of medical therapy or adverse drug reactions. Near-total thyroidectomy was the most common surgical procedure performed (65%). Pathology demonstrated previously unrecognized thyroid malignancies in 4 (5%) patients. Operative morbidities were transient and included hypoparathyroidism (6%) and recurrent laryngeal nerve neuropraxia (1%). Three (4%) patients who underwent subtotal thyroidectomy developed recurrent hyperthyroidism; all were treated successfully with radioiodine ablation. Of patients presenting with ophthalmopathy, 85% noted improvement postoperatively, while 1 (3%) patient experienced worsening of symptoms. Only 5% developed new-onset Graves ophthalmopathy after operation. Conclusions: Near-total thyroidectomy for Graves disease in children is safe and effective when performed by experienced thyroid surgeons. In addition to relief of systemic symptoms, the majority of patients presenting with Graves ophthalmopathy experienced improvement of their ocular disease after operation. In 5% of patients, surgical management allowed for detection and treatment of clinically occult thyroid malignancies.
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