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Thyroidectomy surgery is the practice of removing the thyroid gland either completely or partly. In general, thyroidectomy surgery is performed for patients who have a goiter, hyperthyroidism, thyroid cancer, or thyroid nodules.

The thyroid which is located under Adam's apple is responsible for the production of many different hormones such as calcitonin, triiodothyronine, and thyroxine. Some of the patients who are experiencing difficulties in breathing and swallowing because of their enlarged thyroid eventually have a thyroidectomy surgery.


There are six types of thyroidectomy surgery, but the most common are: 

● Partial thyroidectomy surgery – only a part of the thyroid gland is removed, specifically the part of the gland that is located right in front of the trachea  ● Near-total thyroidectomy surgery – both lobes of the thyroid gland are removed, apart from a very small amount of thyroid tissue 
● Total thyroidectomy surgery – the entire gland is removed during this procedure 

Depending on the patient's illness, surgeons decide on the type of thyroidectomy surgery they would perform. If the patient’s case is about aesthetic or cosmetic reasons, partial thyroidectomy operation would be more appropriate.


For people who are suffering from the following medical conditions, usually thyroidectomy is suggested:


● Thyroid Cancer –Thyroid cancer is one of the most widespread cause for patients to undergo thyroidectomy surgery. For the patients who have thyroid cancer, thyroid glands are removed completely or partially during the operation of thyroidectomy. 

● Hyperthyroidism– People who have hyperthyroidism have higher levels of thyroxine than usual. Usually, thyroidectomy is performed for these patients to treat their condition.
● Goiter

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Thyroidectomy surgery is suggested for patients who can not benefit from such treatments of anti-thyroid drugs or radioactive iodine therapy etc. There might be a necessity for pregnant women to wait until their second or thirdtrimester of a pregnancy before they have thyroidectomy surgery. Also, patients who have aggressive forms of cancer and intense breathing difficulties are listed among the exclusions


How long should you stay in the hospital after the surgery? 

The patient is required to stay 1 night in the hospital. 


As a preparation thyroid ultrasound is required for patients, who will have a thyroidectomy.CT scan, blood tests, and the patient's vocal cord assessment are also needed before the thyroidectomy procedure.


For thyroidectomy surgery, general anesthesia is used, and during the operation, surgeons follow up the vital signs of the patient.

Thyroidectomy operation can be performed in three different ways:


● Conventional thyroidectomy:A collar incision is created above the sternal notch. The incision is created in the natural creases of the skin. Most incisions are between 6 and 8 cm in length.
● Robotic thyroidectomy: In this method, cuts can be in the armpit, neck, or chest.  
●Endoscopic thyroidectomy: In this technique, smaller cuts which have short space between them are made to perform the operation.

After making the required cuts, surgeons remove the thyroid gland either totally or partly. In case of necessity, lymph nodes might be removed as well. Thyroidectomy surgery takes a couple of hours. The area is then sutured and bandaged. After the operation patient should spend a night at the hospital under the supervision of medical staff.


Most patients return to normal activities in 10 days after the thyroidectomy procedure. Some restrictions may apply during this period – the surgeon will provide you with specific guidelines. Pain, discomfort and a very weak voice are to be expected after the surgery.


Risks and complications related to a thyroidectomy procedure are: 

● Permanent changes in voice 
● Infection – around 2% chance 
● Bleeding 
● Airway obstruction 
● Permanent low calcium levels 
● Permanent need for thyroid hormone replacement drugs – around 50% chance


The following are the possible side effects of thyroidectomy surgery:


● Bleeding 
● Pain in the neck 
● Swelling around the incision site ● Temporary, weak voice


Depending on the kind of cancer the patient is suffering from and its spread, the success rate of thyroidectomy changes. However, the success rate of thyroidectomy performed for cosmetic reasons is in the high 90s.


After the thyroidectomy surgery, a patient needs to take thyroid hormone medications. There might be a need for radioactive iodine therapy after the operation, for the patients who suffered from thyroid cancer.


– When can I start doing sports again after the surgery? 
2 weeks after the operation, patients can start doing sports.

–When will I be able to go back to work after the thyroidectomy operation?

Many of the patients are able to go back to their work for around 10 days. 

– What are the chances of having permanent low calcium levels after the thyroidectomy procedure? 

The risk is lower than 1%.


When can I get back to sports after the treatment? 

You can expect to get back to exercise after 2 weeks


This content is written and reviewed by our medical content team in August, 2019.