Thyroid surgery, also known as thyroidectomy, is a surgical procedure performed to remove all or part of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ located at the base of the neck, and it plays a crucial role in regulating metabolism by producing hormones that influence various bodily functions.
Types of thyroid surgery include:
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In this procedure, the entire thyroid gland is removed. It is often performed in cases of thyroid cancer or when the entire gland is overactive.
In a partial thyroidectomy, or hemithyroidectomy, one lobe (half) of the thyroid gland is removed. This may be done if there are benign nodules or tumors limited to one side of the thyroid.
In some cases, only a portion of one lobe may be removed.
There are a number of reasons why thyroid surgery may be recommended, including:
Thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer is the most common type of cancer of the endocrine system. Thyroid surgery is the primary treatment for thyroid cancer.
Goiter. A goiter is an enlargement of the thyroid gland. Goiters can be caused by a number of factors, including iodine deficiency, Graves' disease, and Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Thyroid surgery may be recommended for goiters that are large or that are causing symptoms, such as difficulty swallowing or breathing.
Hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. Thyroid surgery may be recommended for hyperthyroidism that is not controlled with medication. Learn more about hyperthyroidism here.
Thyroid nodules. Thyroid nodules are growths on the thyroid gland. Most thyroid nodules are benign (non-cancerous), but some can be malignant (cancerous). Thyroid surgery may be recommended for thyroid nodules that are large, that are growing rapidly, or that are suspected to be cancerous.
What to Expect
Thyroid surgery is typically performed under general anesthesia. The surgeon will make an incision in the neck and then remove all or part of the thyroid gland. The surgery typically takes 1-2 hours to complete.
Most people can go home on the same day as their thyroid surgery. However, some people may need to stay overnight in the hospital.
The recovery time for thyroid surgery varies depending on the extent of the surgery. Most people can return to work or school within 1-2 weeks. However, it may take several months for the full range of motion to return to the neck.
In the weeks leading up to surgery, there are a few things you can do to prepare:
Stop smoking. Smoking can increase the risk of complications during and after surgery. It is best to stop smoking at least 4-6 weeks before surgery.
Avoid certain medications. Some medications, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, can increase the risk of bleeding during surgery. Your doctor will give you a list of medications to avoid before surgery.
Eat a healthy diet. Eating a healthy diet will give you the strength and energy you need to recover from surgery. Make sure to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Get enough rest. Getting enough rest will help you heal faster after surgery. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
Risks & Complications
As with any surgery, there are potential risks and complications, including infection, bleeding, damage to adjacent structures, changes in voice (hoarseness), and potential changes in calcium levels.
Thyroid surgery is typically performed by an experienced surgeon, often an ear, nose, and throat specialist (otolaryngologist) or an endocrine surgeon. The choice of procedure and the decision to undergo surgery depend on the specific thyroid condition and should be discussed thoroughly with a healthcare provider.