What Is the Thyroid Gland?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland located below the Adam's apple in the lower part of the neck and wraps around the windpipe (trachea).
It produces thyroid hormones which:
- Help the body use energy
- Maintain body temperature
- Keep the heart, brain, muscles, and other organs functioning properly
Why Is Thyroid Removal Surgery Performed?
The main reasons a doctor may recommend thyroid removal surgery include:
- A nodule that could be thyroid cancer
- A diagnosis of thyroid cancer
- A nodule or goiter that is causing local symptoms
- Compression of the trachea
- Difficulty swallowing
- A visible or unsightly mass
- A nodule or goiter that is causing symptoms due to the production and release of excess thyroid hormone
- A toxic nodule
- A toxic multinodular goiter
- Graves’ disease
What Are Types of Thyroid Removal Surgery?
Removal of the thyroid gland (thyroidectomy) may be partial or total.
Types of thyroid removal surgeries include:
- Hemi-thyroidectomy or thyroid lobectomy: one lobe (one half) of the thyroid is removed
- Isthmusectomy: removal of just the bridge of thyroid tissue between the two lobes
- Performed only for small tumors located in the isthmus
- Total or near-total thyroidectomy: removal of all or most of the thyroid tissue
- Open thyroid biopsy (rare): a nodule is removed directly
What Are the Side Effects of Removing Your Thyroid?
Some patients become hypothyroid (have low thyroid hormone) following thyroid surgery, particularly when the entire thyroid gland is removed. This requires lifelong treatment with thyroid hormone replacement therapy.
Other side effects of thyroid removal surgery (thyroidectomy) that may require patients to be re-hospitalized include:
What Are Complications of Thyroid Surgery?
Complications of thyroid surgery include:
- Injury to a laryngeal nerve resulting in temporary or permanent hoarseness,
- Acute respiratory distress in if both laryngeal nerves are injured (rare)
- Damage to the parathyroid glands that control calcium levels in the blood, leading to low parathyroid hormone (hypoparathyroidism) and low blood calcium (hypocalcemia)