Thyroidectomy is the removal of all or part of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is a butterfly shaped gland located at the front of the neck. It produces hormones that regulates metabolism.
Thyroidectomy may be recommended for a number of conditions:

  • Cancer - Once thyroid cancer has been diagnosed from a biopsy, removing part or all of the thyroid gland will be the treatment of choice. Surrounding lymph nodes may need to be removed during the same operation depending on the size of the cancer. Occasionally radioactive iodine treatment is offered after surgery depending on the final pathology result
  • Enlargement (Multinodular Goitre) - Removing part or the entire gland may be a treatment option if the enlarged gland causes difficulty in breathing and/or swallowing.
  • Overactive thyroid ( Hyperthyroidism/Graves’ disease) - In these conditions, the thyroid gland produces too much hormones. It can be treated by medication, radioactive iodine or surgery. Often surgery is recommended if you have problems with antithyroid medication and/or unsuitable for radioactive iodine treatment.

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Thyroidectomy is generally a safe procedure that is performed under general anaesthesia and requires 1-2 days stay in the hospital. Like all surgery, it carries potential risks. These include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Airway problems due to bleeding - this may require return to operating theatre within 24hrs of surgery
  • Temporary/ Permanent hoarse or weak voice due to nerve damage
  • Damage to parathyroid glands resulting in a low calcium level
  • Thickened scar on the neck

You will be able to eat and drink after surgery. Most patients will be able to go home the following day.

If part of the gland is removed, the remaining thyroid will be able to produce enough hormones and therefore usually no hormone replacement is required. If the entire gland is removed, thyroid hormone medication will be prescribed to you.

Video of a Thyroidectomy
(source: Nucleus Medical Media).