Performing thymectomy during cardiothoracic surgery significantly increases the risk of death from all causes and from cancer. Also in patients who thymus gland removedthe incidence of cancer and autoimmune diseases increases and the production of T cells decreases.
Scientists from Harvard University assessed the effect of thymectomy on mortality and the development of cancer and autoimmune diseases. The results of the study were published in the journal NEJM.
The authors noted that the role of the thymus in adults is not fully understood and thymectomy is often performed during cardiothoracic surgery.
Mortality from all causes in the thymectomy group was almost three times higher (risk ratio was 2.9) compared with the same control group. The likelihood of developing cancer after removal of the thymus increased twofold. Cancer mortality after thymectomy was also higher than in the general population.
When analyzing data from all participants, the risk of developing autoimmune diseases was comparable. However, after excluding all patients who were diagnosed with infectious, oncological and autoimmune diseases before surgery, the risk was increased by 50%.
Also, among patients who underwent thymectomy, there was lower production of CD4+ and CD8+ lymphocytes and higher levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines in the blood.
|The study included 1,420 patients who underwent thymectomy during cardiothoracic procedures and 6,021 sex- and age-matched individuals who did not undergo thymectomy. The follow-up period was five years. T-cell levels were measured in the blood of 22 people who had undergone thymectomy and 19 control participants.