Thyroid gland removal is surgery to remove all or part of the thyroid gland. Your thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland that lies over your trachea (the tube that carries air to your lungs). It is just below your voice box.
Total thyroidectomy; Partial thyroidectomy; Thyroidectomy; Subtotal thyroidectomy
You will have general anesthesia (asleep and pain-free) for this surgery. Rarely, the surgery may be done with local anesthesia and medicine to relax you. You will be awake but pain-free.
Your surgeon may do the procedure through a surgical cut in your neck.
Your doctor may recommend thyroid removal if you have:
You may also have surgery if you have an overactive thyroid gland and do not want to have radioactive iodine treatment, or you cannot be treated with antithyroid medicines.
Risks from any anesthesia include:
Risks from any surgery include:
Risks for thyroid removal include:
You may need to have tests that show exactly where the abnormal thyroid growth is located. This will help the surgeon find the growth during surgery. You may have a CT scan, ultrasound, or other special imaging tests.
Your doctor may also do a fine needle aspiration to find out if the growth is noncancerous or cancerous. Before surgery, your vocal cord function should be checked.
You may also need thyroid medicine or iodine treatments 1 - 2 weeks before your surgery.
Before surgery, an anesthesiologist will review your medical history and decide what type of anesthesia to use. The anesthesiologist is a doctor who will give you the medicines that will make you sleepy and keep you pain-free during surgery. The anesthesiologist will also monitor you during surgery.
Fill any prescriptions for pain medicine and calcium you will need after surgery.
Several days to a week before surgery, you may be asked to stop taking drugs that make it harder for your blood to clot. These include drugs such as:
You will probably be asked to stop eating or drinking at least 6 hours before surgery.
Ask your doctor which medicines you should still take the day of surgery.
If you smoke, try to stop. Your recovery time will be shorter if you do not smoke. Ask your doctor or nurse for help.
Your doctor or nurse will tell you when to arrive at the hospital.
You will probably go home the day after surgery. In rare cases, patients may spend up to 3 days in the hospital. You must be able to swallow liquids before you can go home.
Your doctor will probably check the calcium level in your blood after surgery. This is done more often when the whole thyroid gland is removed.
You may have some minor pain after surgery. Most patients are able to get up and walk on the day after surgery. It should take about 3 - 4 weeks for you to fully recover. Avoid the sun while the surgical cut is healing to prevent the skin from getting darker.
The outcome of this surgery is usually excellent. Most people will need to take thyroid hormone pills (thyroid hormone replacement) for the rest of their lives if the whole gland has been removed.
Hanks JB, Salomone LJ. Thyroid. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 18th ed. St. Louis, Mo: WB Saunders; 2008:chap 36.
Lai SY, Mandel SJ, Weber RS. Management of thyroid neoplasms. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund VJ, Niparko JK, Richardson MA, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier;2010:chap 124.