Thyroid gland surgery

What is thyroid gland surgery?

The thyroid gland is an endocrine gland responsible for producing the hormones T3 and T4, which are necessary for regulating body temperature and the body’s use of energy. As such, the gland has a shape similar to that of a butterfly, and is located inside the neck, surrounded by the recurrent nerve, which is responsible for moving the vocal cords and the parathyroid glands, which regulate the level of calcium in the blood.

Thyroid gland surgery is an operation that is normally performed to remove all or part of the gland under general anesthesia. The most common procedures are total thyroidectomy, in which the entire thyroid is removed, subtotal or partial thyroidectomy, in which part of the thyroid is removed (usually most of it) and hemithyroidectomy, which consists of removing one of the lobes of the gland.

Why is thyroid surgery performed?

Thyroid surgery is always performed to remove part or all of the thyroid gland. The choice of one or the other technique (total and subtotal thyroidectomy and hemithyroidectomy) will depend on the disease.

Surgery of the thyroid gland will be performed if the patient has any of the following pathologies:

  • Thyroid nodule: small tumor or cyst in the thyroid.
  • Thyroid cancer.
  • Benign tumors that cause symptoms.
  • Simple goiter: an inflammation in the thyroid gland that can cause difficulty swallowing and/or breathing.
  • Thyrotoxicosis: occurs when the thyroid gland produces too much hormone.
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What is thyroid gland surgery?

Depending on the cause, either a total thyroidectomy, to remove the entire gland, a subtotal or partial thyroidectomy, in which part of the thyroid gland is removed, or a hemithyroidectomy, in which one of the lobes of the gland is removed, will be chosen.

In most surgeries, the patient will be sedated with general anesthesia, although sometimes the surgery is performed under local anesthesia.

As such, the surgery is performed by making an incision in the lower neck, above the collarbone. The incision will be horizontal, through which part or all of the gland is removed and extracted. It is a complex procedure, since it is an area with many blood vessels and nerves, and can last up to four hours.

Preparation for thyroid surgery

If cancer is suspected, a fine needle aspiration will be performed to determine whether or not the tumor is cancerous. In turn, ultrasound tests or tests such as a CT scan may be performed.

Thyroid iodine medications may also be administered one to two weeks prior to surgery. Also, if the patient is a smoker, it is recommended to quit before surgery.

Care after thyroid surgery

Normally, the patient can return home either the same day or one day after surgery. Recovery time will be three to four weeks. Analgesics will usually be given to treat possible pain.