What is Thyroid Surgery ?

Thyroid surgery is used to treat thyroid nodules, thyroid cancer, and hyperthyroidism. During this procedure, part or all of the thyroid gland is removed. The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the front of the neck.

Why is it required?

A thyroidectomy is mostly recommended if:

  • Thyroid cancer is present or is suspected.
  • A noncancerous (benign) nodule is large enough to cause problems with breathing or swallowing.
  • A fluid-filled (cystic) nodule returns after being drained once or twice.
  • Hyperthyroidism cannot be treated with medicines or radioactive iodine.
  • Surgery is rarely used to treat hyperthyroidism

Types of Thyroid Surgery

There are three main types of thyroid surgery:

  • Total Thyroidectomy — Complete Removal of the Thyroid

This is the most common type of thyroid surgery, and is often used for thyroid cancer, and in particular, aggressive cancers, such as medullary or anaplastic thyroid cancer. It is also used for goiter and Graves’/hyperthyroidism treatment.

  • Subtotal/Partial Thyroidectomy — Removal of Half of the Thyroid Gland

For this operation, cancer must be small and non-aggressive — follicular or papillary — and contained to one side of the gland. When a subtotal or partial thyroidectomy is performed, typically, surgeons perform a bilateral subtotal thyroidectomy which leaves from 1 to 5 grams on each side/lobe of the thyroid. A Harley Dunhill procedure is also popular, in which there’s a total lobectomy on one side, and a subtotal on the other, leaving 4 to 5 grams of thyroid tissue remaining.

  • Thyroid Lobectomy — Removal of Only About a Quarter of the Gland

This is less commonly used for thyroid cancer, as the cancerous cells must be small and non-aggressive.

What is done during the surgery?

In the surgery, the surgeon will cut a 3- to 5-inch incision across the base of your neck in front. The skin and muscle are pulled back to expose the thyroid gland. The incision is usually made so that it falls in the fold of the skin in your neck, making it less noticeable.

Blood supply to the gland is “tied off,” and the parathyroid glands are identified (so that they can be protected). The surgeon then separates the trachea from the thyroid, and removes all or part of the gland.

What is done after the surgery?

Depending on the condition of the patient, an overnight or two-night hospital stay may be planned. At the time of discharge, the surgeon and staff will give you a list of necessary instructions.