Patients often discuss information obtained from Internet sources during clinic visits,
which can be of variable quality and depth. We sought to review and assess information
on the Internet regarding common operations within endocrine surgery.
Using Google's search engine, the top 100 websites from the search phrase “parathyroid
surgery,” and the top 100 websites from the phrase “thyroid surgery” were identified.
Each website was evaluated for accessibility, accuracy, and completeness of information
about gland hormone function, associated disease processes, and surgery itself. Results
were stratified based on the website type, and bivariate analysis was performed to
determine accuracy by category. Presence of author credentials, last webpage update,
and presence of advertisements were also assessed. Inter-rater reliability was calculated
for each variable.
For parathyroid surgery, at least two-thirds of all websites included information
about surgery, hormone function, and disease processes. For thyroid surgery, 71% of
websites included procedure information, but only 52% included information about hormone
function and 56% about disease processes. Less than 30% of all websites included advertisements
and less than 25% listed author credentials or provided references. Academic or research-affiliated
sources were most likely to have zero inaccuracies, but 44% of all websites had at
least one potential inaccuracy. Inter-rater reliability achieved at least moderate
agreement (>0.41) for 56% of variables.
There is a wide array of information available to patients online, and accuracy varies
based on multiple factors including the type of website. Endocrine surgeons and related
practitioners must be cognizant of this fact when discussing treatment plans with