Thyroid gland removal

Definition

Thyroid gland removal is surgery to remove all or part of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located inside the front of the lower neck.

The thyroid gland is part of the hormone (endocrine) system. It helps your body regulate your metabolism.

Alternative Names

Total thyroidectomy; Partial thyroidectomy; Thyroidectomy; Subtotal thyroidectomy; Thyroid cancer - thyroidectomy; Papillary cancer - thyroidectomy; Goiter - thyroidectomy; Thyroid nodules - thyroidectomy

Description

Depending on the reason you are having your thyroid gland removed, the type of thyroidectomy you have will be either a:

You will have general anesthesia (asleep and pain-free) for this surgery. In rare cases, the surgery is done with local anesthesia and medicine to relax you. You will be awake, but pain-free.

During the surgery:

Surgery to remove your whole thyroid may take 2 to 3 hours. It may take less time if only part of the thyroid is removed.

Newer techniques that require a smaller incision near the thyroid or at other locations and which involve the use of endoscopy have been developed.

Why the Procedure Is Performed

Your doctor may recommend thyroid removal if you have any of the following:

You may also have surgery if you have an overactive thyroid gland and do not want to have radioactive iodine treatment, or you cannot be treated with antithyroid medicines.

Risks

Risks of anesthesia and surgery in general include:

Risks of thyroidectomy include:

Before the Procedure

During the weeks before your surgery:

Several days to a week before surgery:

On the day of surgery:

After the Procedure

You will probably go home the day of or the day after surgery. In rare cases, you may need to spend up to 3 days in the hospital. You must be able to swallow liquids before you can go home.

Your provider may check the calcium level in your blood after surgery. This is done more often when the whole thyroid gland is removed.

You may have some pain after surgery. Ask your provider for instructions on how to take pain medicines after you go home.

It should take about 4 to 6 weeks for you to fully recover.

Follow any instructions for taking care of yourself after you go home.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Outcome of this surgery is usually excellent. Most people need to take thyroid hormone pills (thyroid hormone replacement) for the rest of their lives when the whole gland is removed.

References

Ferris RL, Turner MT. Minimally invasive video-assisted thyroidectomy. In: Myers EN, Snyderman CH, eds. Operative Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 79.

Kaplan EL, Angelos P, James BC, Nagar S, Grogan RH. Surgery of the thyroid. In: Jameson JL, De Groot LJ, de Kretser DM, et al, eds. Endocrinology: Adult and Pediatric. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 96.

Patel KN, Yip L, Lubitz CC, et al. Executive summary of the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons guidelines for the definitive surgical management of thyroid disease in adults. Ann Surg. 2020;271(3):399-410. PMID: 32079828 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32079828/.

Suh I, Sosa JA. Thyroid. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 21st ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2022:chap 37.


Review Date: 2/28/2022
Reviewed By: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, General Surgery Practice Specializing in Breast Cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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