Thyroid surgery is used to treat several different thyroid conditions such as nodules, cancer, and hyperthyroidism. Surgery is often considered a last resort for thyroid conditions and may be used if more conservative treatments have failed, a condition is recurring or cancer is present. Thyroid surgery removes part or all of the thyroid gland, depending on the type and severity of the condition.
The different types of thyroid surgery include:
- Thyroid lobectomy – only the lobe of the thyroid is removed if a thyroid nodule is confined to just that area. This may also be performed with an isthmectomy to remove the isthmus, the structure that connects the two lobes.
- Subtotal thyroidectomy – one complete lobe, the isthmus, and part of the other lobe is removed. This is typically used for hyperthyroidism caused by Graves’ disease and small cancers.
- Total thyroidectomy – the entire thyroid gland and surrounding lymph nodes are removed. This is the most common procedure for thyroid cancer to completely remove the disease.
If the entire thyroid is removed, you will need to take thyroid hormone replacement drugs, usually for the rest of your life. The lack of a thyroid will often bring about signs of hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid. Symptoms of hypothyroidism may include fatigue, exhaustion, depression, and difficulty concentrating.
Thyroid surgeries are performed through an incision in the middle of the neck. The procedure usually takes about two hours and is done under general anesthesia. An overnight hospital stay is required, but most patients are able to resume normal activities the day after surgery. Strenuous activities should be avoided for at least 10 days after surgery. Thyroid surgeries are considered safe procedures with few complications. Some people may experience hoarseness or a sore throat because of the breathing tube used during surgery.
The most common disease associated with the parathyroid glands is an overproduction of parathyroid hormone (PTH), known as hyperparathyroidism. Although medication is available to treat hyperparathyroidism, surgery is most often recommended and is the only cure. Surgical removal of one or more parathyroid glands is called a parathyroidectomy.
A small incision will be made in your neck to remove the gland. Your particular problem will determine how many of the parathyroid glands need to be removed. Some parathyroid tissue, however, must be left in place to help prevent hypoparathyroidism (decreased parathyroid activity).
In most cases of hyperparathyroidism, only one gland has to be removed and a less invasive procedure called minimally invasive radio-guided parathyroid (MIRP) surgery can be performed. MIRP surgery requires a much smaller incision and quicker recovery period.