If you’ve been told you need a thyroidectomy, it’s only natural you might have a million and one questions swirling through your mind. Here are some of the most important facts you need to know about this procedure.
What is thyroidectomy?
Thyroidectomy is a surgical procedure to remove part or all of the thyroid gland, which is located in the front of the throat. This butterfly-shaped gland produces important hormones that control many of the body’s functions, including metabolism.
Whether you have a partial or total thyroidectomy depends on the underlying cause of the enlarged gland.
Reasons for thyroidectomy
One of the most common reasons for thyroidectomy is if you suffer from thyroid cancer. Most of all of the glands will usually be removed in this case.
However, some people experience an enlarged thyroid gland that’s non-cancerous, called a goiter. Often this doesn’t cause any problems but if it starts to affect swallowing or breathing, thyroidectomy may be recommended. If only one part of the thyroid gland is enlarged, then a partial thyroidectomy will be performed.
If the thyroid gland isn’t producing normal levels of hormones, normally medicines can be taken to correct the imbalance. Where these medicines aren’t tolerated, undergoing a thyroidectomy may help.
What to expect during a thyroidectomy
You’ll be placed under general anaesthetic during this procedure, with a breathing tube inserted in your trachea.
The thyroid surgeon makes a cut low in the center of the neck to access the thyroid gland, but other approaches include making an incision in the mouth or making very tiny incisions in the neck that involve the use of a video camera to guide the surgeon.
The procedure takes around one to two hours, where you’ll be monitored carefully throughout. In some cases, a drain may be placed under the neck incision.
Recovery from thyroidectomy
Your neck may feel sore after surgery and your voice may be hoarse and weak, but these effects should quickly subside. You can usually eat and drink normally after surgery, and may be able to go home after a day or so, providing there are no complications.
Fortunately, complications of thyroid gland surgery are very small. According to the NHS, complications affect around 1-2% only, and these will be discussed with you by your private thyroid surgeon beforehand.
It’s recommended to avoid strenuous activity following a thyroidectomy, particularly lifting heavy items.
Many people worry about having a scar following a thyroidectomy, but according to the British Thyroid Foundation, most scars fade within six months to a year.
After a couple of months, you’ll undergo a check-up to assess your thyroid function. You may need to take medicines if thyroid levels need balancing or if you have all of your thyroid glands removed.
Contact ENT Sheffield
If you’d like to find out more about this procedure, why not speak to one of our private thyroid surgeons in Sheffield?