Central neck dissection via the transoral approach
There has been a strong impetus for the development of remote access approaches to the central neck. The primary motivation for this has been to alleviate the negative impact that some patients may perceive from a central neck scar. Numerous approaches have been described; however the only approach that provides midline access and equivalent visualization of the bilateral thyroid lobes and paratracheal basins is transoral neck surgery (TONS). TONS has been shown to be safe and effective in performing thyroidectomy, parathyroidectomy, and central neck dissection (CND) via both the endoscopic and robotic techniques. In contrast with other remote access techniques, it provides the surgeon with familiar views of the bilateral recurrent laryngeal nerves (RLN) at their insertion site in concert with equivalent access to both paratracheal basins, thus uniquely facilitating safe and comprehensive CND. Though feasible and safe, CND via TONS is not appropriate in all cases. CND via TONS should only be performed with concomitant transoral total thyroidectomy, either prophylactically if the surgeon routinely performs prophylactic CND, or therapeutically if there is newly found evidence of nodal metastasis in the central compartment at the time of surgery. We base these recommendations on both the recent American Head and Neck Society (AHNS) consensus statement for indications for transcervical CND and the baseline indications for TONS.