What is thyroid surgery?

Thyroid surgery refers to a procedure that is performed in order to treat health conditions affecting the thyroid. These include thyroid nodules, hyperthyroidism and cancer of the thyroid.

Why is it performed?

The surgeon may recommend thyroid surgery if he suspects that you may have thyroid cancer, or if a non-cancerous nodule has become large enough that it is making breathing or swallowing difficult. Nodules that are filled with fluid may also be treated with thyroid surgery.

In rare cases, hyperthyroidism is treated with surgery.

How does it work?

During thyroid surgery, the thyroid (or part of it) is typically removed. These procedures are performed using open surgery. A skin incision is made in one of the neck folds and dissection carried down onto the thyroid. The biggest risk during thyroid surgery is injury to the nerves that supply the vocal cords. Extreme care is taken during surgery to identify and spare these nerves.

There are several types of thyroid removal surgery, including:

    • Total thyroidectomy

During this procedure, the entire thyroid as well as the lymph nodes surrounding it are removed, depending on the surgical indication. The surgeon may recommend this surgery if you have thyroid cancer.

    • Thyroid lobectomy

This procedure involves the removal of just one lobe of the thyroid. This procedure is recommended in cases where nodules are present in just one lobe. In some cases, the section of tissue that connects the two thyroid lobes (known as the isthmus) is also removed. Once the nodules have been removed, they are sent for testing in a laboratory, and if cancer cells are found, the surgeon may recommend a total thyroidectomy.

    • Subtotal thyroidectomy

During this procedure, the surgeon will remove one lobe, as well as the isthmus and a part of the other lobe. This procedure is usually recommended in cases where hyperthyroidism needs to be treated surgically.