What is it?
Thyroidectomy is the surgical procedure where either some portion or all of the thyroid gland is removed. The thyroid gland is located in the lower front portion of the neck. It produces thyroid hormone, which regulates the body’s production of energy and controls the body’s metabolism rate.
When is it needed?
Doctors recommend Thyroidectomy for the following:
- Thyroid Cancer: Thyroidectomy is opted to remove most or in some cases, the whole thyroid gland as a treatment option for thyroid cancer.
- Goiter: or the non-cancerous enlargement of the thyroid can be uncomfortable causing breathing difficulties, swallowing and in some cases, even hyperthyroidism.
- Hyperthyroidism: is a condition where the thyroid gland produces too much thyroxine that cannot be controlled using anti-thyroid medications. In cases where radioactive iodine can’t be used especially in pregnant women.
- To remove small growths on the thyroid
- When an enlarged thyroid or multiple nodules swell.
The doctors will recommend either one of the two Thyroidectomy types depending on the severity and type of issue affecting the Thyroid gland.
- Total Thyroidectomy: is the medical procedure where the whole thyroid gland is removed. The surgeon makes a small incision in front of the neck, and carefully works around vital structures, such as the vocal nerves. A little amount of thyroid tissue near the recurrent laryngeal nerve may be left behind as removing the whole thyroid gland can cause hypothyroidism. The absence of the thyroid gland can lead to no thyroid hormone being manufactured and released. In order to compensate this, thyroid hormone replacement therapy is also required to make sure that the body has healthy levels of thyroid hormones.
- Partial Thyroidectomy: is usually recommended for patients with small papillary tumors located in only one lobe of the thyroid gland and whose cancer hasn’t spread outside the thyroid, a partial thyroidectomy may be enough to remove cancer.
In a partial thyroidectomy, the cancerous thyroid lobe is removed. This surgery typically takes 2 hours to perform. Only one lobe is removed, the rest of the lobe can still produce healthy amounts of thyroid hormone. However, depending on the thyroid function tests, you might still need to take thyroid hormone medication to suppress the remaining thyroid lobe.
After a thyroidectomy, the patient might experience neck pain and a hoarse or weak voice. These symptoms are often temporary and may be due to irritation from the breathing tube that was inserted into the trachea during surgery, or as a result of nerve irritation caused by surgery.
The patient will be asked to come for a follow-up visit to the doctor, usually recommended a week after being discharged from the hospital. During this visit, the doctor will examine the healing of the incision or incisions. The calcium and phosphorus levels will also be checked to evaluate the function of the parathyroid glands, which can be damaged during thyroid surgery in rare cases.
In rare cases, some patients might experience some of the following risk factors:
- Hemorrhage or bleeding below the neck wound
- Thyroid storm or the rise of thyroid hormones in the blood
- Voice Cord paralysis or a hoarse voice due to an injury that was caused to the recurrent laryngeal nerve
- Wound infection
- Hypoparathyroidism is the inability of the patient to produce enough parathyroid hormone due to the damage caused to the parathyroid glands during the surgery. This can lead to low blood calcium levels.