The thyroid is a gland located at the base of your neck that produces hormones that affect your metabolism. When a person has a thyroid disorder, such as hyperthyroidism or cancer, a thyroidectomy may be performed to remove the thyroid. In this procedure, most or all of the thyroid gland is surgically removed (total, near-total or subtotal thyroidectomy). Many patients with thyroid cancer have a thyroidectomy. However, because very little or no functioning thyroid tissue is left behind, patients need to take daily thyroid hormone replacement pills afterwards.
While thyroid cancer is the most common reason for undergoing a thyroidectomy, the following disorders may also require this procedure:
- Goiter: This condition is a non-cancerous enlargement of the thyroid that can cause difficulty breathing or swallowing.
- Hyperthyroidism: Also known as overactive thyroid, this condition causes your thyroid gland to produce too much of the hormone thyroxine.
During a thyroidectomy, you are placed under general anesthesia. The three types of thyroidectomy procedures are:
- Conventional thyroidectomy: A small incision is made in the front of the neck to remove your thyroid gland.
- Endoscopic thyroidectomy: Your surgeon will make a few incisions in the neck through which surgical instruments and a small camera will pass. This camera will help guide your surgeon during the procedure.
- Robotic thyroidectomy: Incisions are made in the chest and armpit or high up on the neck.
One or more incisions may be made before all or part of the thyroid gland is removed. The surgeon may also remove surrounding lymph nodes for examination.
The procedure typically takes several hours to complete. After a thyroidectomy, a hoarse voice is common, but should be temporary.
The type of thyroidectomy performed depends on the individual. Your surgeon will determine the best option based on your overall health, type of disease and location of the disease.