Thyroid surgery

What is thyroid surgery?

Thyroid surgery involves removing all or part of the thyroid gland. It is also known as a thyroidectomy.
This operation is used to treat thyroid cancer, hyperthyroidism (excess thyroid hormone) and thyroid nodules.

Why is it done?

The thyroid gland is located in the neck and is responsible for producing thyroid hormone, which controls the body’s metabolism.
Thyroid surgery may be performed for a number of reasons, but is most commonly related to the growth of tumors or nodules (usually non-cancerous nodules) in the thyroid.

The intervention can also correct hyperthyroidism, a condition that causes excessive thyroid hormone production.
Finally, it can also be a treatment for goiter, swelling of the gland. The goiter may be large enough to obstruct the throat, affecting, among other things, the patient’s ability to swallow and breathe.

What does it consist of?

The type of intervention offered will depend on the patient and his or her characteristics; there are several types of procedures and the surgeon will advise which is the best one available. The most common types of procedures are lobectomy, total thyroidectomy and subtotal thyroidectomy.

  • In lobectomy, one of the two lobes of the thyroid gland is removed. It is performed in patients whose swelling, tumors or nodules affect only half of the gland.
  • In subtotal thyroidectomy, the thyroid is removed, but a small portion of thyroid tissue is also left in place. This means that the function of the thyroid gland remains intact. However, the operation can cause hypothyroidism (leading to insufficient thyroid hormone production).
  • In total thyroidectomy, the entire thyroid gland is removed along with the tissue. This procedure is usually indicated in cases where nodules or swelling affect the entire thyroid gland or in patients with cancer.
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During surgery, an incision is made in the neck to remove all or part of the thyroid gland. The procedure is performed under general anesthesia, with the patient asleep. It can also be performed as a minimally invasive procedure.

Preparing for thyroid surgery

Before planning the operation, an initial consultation should be performed to verify that the patient is an ideal candidate for thyroid surgery. The surgeon will advise you on the precautions to be taken and will explain which possible prescription medications the patient can safely take.

Anticoagulants should not be taken for several days before surgery. The surgeon will be able to answer any questions the patient may have about the procedure during the consultation.

Post-procedure recovery

Thyroid surgery is usually successful and complications are rare. After surgery, a few days of rest are expected. In addition, driving should be avoided until the patient is able to turn his or her head from side to side and is no longer taking pain medication.

After the operation, it is normal to feel uncomfortable and the patient may have a sore throat for a few days. Patients will see the formation of a scar that, in the months following the operation, will gradually disappear until it becomes practically invisible.

In some cases, one of the side effects of surgery is hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism can be controlled by hormone replacement therapy. Patients can expect to enjoy a normal, healthy life.