Removal of the thyroid may be necessary due to cancer, enlargement, or noncancerous growths on the thyroid.
A thyroidectomy is surgery to remove part or all of a person's thyroid.
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of your neck. It helps regulate your body's metabolism.
A thyroidectomy might be needed if you have:
- Thyroid cancer
- Noncancerous growths on the thyroid
- An enlarged thyroid
- An overactive thyroid
A total thyroidectomy is a procedure to remove the entire thyroid.
A partial thyroidectomy means that just a portion of the gland is taken out.
The Thyroidectomy Procedure
A thyroidectomy can take up to four hours, depending on the type of surgery you're having.
Most of the time, general anesthesia is given. This means you won't be conscious during the procedure.
A surgeon will make an incision in the middle of your neck, or several small cuts in or near the neck.
If you're having a conventional thyroidectomy, the surgeon will remove part or all of your thyroid through the incision in your neck.
If you're having an endoscopic or robotic thyroidectomy, the surgeon will use small instruments and a video camera to perform the procedure through tiny incisions.
A catheter may be placed in the area to help drain blood and fluids.
Before a Thyroidectomy
Before your thyroidectomy, your doctor may perform tests to determine if a growth on your thyroid is cancerous.
You may also undergo imaging tests to find exactly where the thyroid growth is located.
Tell your doctor about all medicines you take before your surgery.
You might need to stop taking certain drugs, such as Plavix (clopidogrel bisulfate), aspirin, Advil (ibuprofen), Aleve (naproxen), or Coumadin (warfarin), prior to your procedure.
Let your doctor know if you smoke. Smoking may slow down your recovery.
Your doctor may prescribe a thyroid medicine or iodine treatment for you to take one to two weeks before your thyroidectomy.
You'll probably be told not to eat or drink anything for several hours before your surgery. Follow your doctor's instructions carefully.
After a Thyroidectomy
If you have a catheter in your neck to drain fluid, it's usually removed the morning after your surgery.
You'll probably be able to go home the day after your thyroidectomy, but you could spend up to three days in the hospital.
The length of your stay will depend on your medical condition and recovery. You must be able to swallow liquids and pills before you can return home.
It will take about three to four weeks for you to fully recover from your surgery.
If you've had your entire thyroid removed, you'll probably need to take thyroid hormone pills for the rest of your life.
Risks of a Thyroidectomy
Potential risks of a thyroidectomy include:
- Bleeding or infection
- Difficulty breathing
- Permanent hoarseness or weak voice due to nerve damage
- Injury to parathyroid glands (glands near the thyroid) or their blood supply, which can cause low blood calcium levels and sometimes muscle spasms or other neuromuscular symptoms
Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking
- Thyroid gland removal; MedlinePlus.
- Thyroidectomy; Mayo Clinic.
- Thyroidectomy; Cedars-Sinai.