Background: The lymph node yield (LNY) and the lymph node ratio (LNR) have been shown to be important prognostic factors in oral, colon, and gastric cancers. The role of the LNY and LNR in papillary thyroid cancer (PTC) is unclear. The aims of this study were to determine if a high LNR and a low LNY decrease disease-free survival rates. This study further aimed to determine an optimum nodal yield. Methods: A retrospective analysis was conducted of 198 patients with PTC undergoing total thyroidectomy with neck dissection between 1987 and 2011. The LNY and LNR were adjusted by relevant covariates in a multivariate Cox regression analysis with Andersen-Gill extension. Results: The LNR was associated with a decrease in disease-free survival (hazard ratio 3.2 [95% confidence interval 1.4-7.3], p=0.005). Patients with an LNR of 0.30 or higher had a 3.4 times higher risk of persistent or recurrent disease compared with patients with an LNR of 0.00 ([95% confidence interval 1.1-10.5], p=0.031). Conversely, patients with an LNR of 0.11 or lower had an 80% chance of remaining disease free during 5 years of follow-up. The LNY showed no significant independent effect and an optimum nodal yield was not determined. Conclusions: The LNR is an important independent prognostic factor in PTC and can be used in conjunction with existing staging systems. A clinical relevant cut-off point of 0.3 (one positive lymph node out of three total) is proposed. No prognostic implications for LNY were identified.