Why it's done
A thyroidectomy may be recommended for conditions such as:
Cancer is the most common reason for thyroidectomy. If you have thyroid cancer, removing most, if not all, of your thyroid will likely be a treatment option.
Noncancerous enlargement of the thyroid (goiter).
Removing all or part of your thyroid gland is an option if you have a large goiter that is uncomfortable or causes difficulty breathing or swallowing or, in some cases, if the goiter is causing hyperthyroidism.
Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid gland produces too much of the hormone thyroxine. If you have problems with anti-thyroid drugs and don't want radioactive iodine therapy, thyroidectomy may be an option.
Indeterminate or suspicious thyroid nodules.
Some thyroid nodules can't be identified as cancerous or noncancerous after testing a sample from a needle biopsy. Doctors may recommend that people with these nodules have thyroidectomy if the nodules have an increased risk of being cancerous.
Thyroidectomy is generally a safe procedure. But as with any surgery, thyroidectomy carries a risk of complications.
Potential complications include:
- Low parathyroid hormone levels (hypoparathyroidism) caused by surgical damage or removal of the parathyroid glands. These glands are located behind your thyroid and regulate blood calcium. Hypoparathyroidism can cause numbness, tingling or cramping due to low blood-calcium levels.
- Airway obstruction caused by bleeding.
- Permanent hoarse or weak voice due to nerve damage.
What you can expect
Before the procedure
Surgeons typically perform thyroidectomy during general anesthesia, so you won't be conscious during the procedure. The anesthesiologist or anesthetist gives you an anesthetic medication as a gas — to breathe through a mask — or injects a liquid medication into a vein. A breathing tube will then be placed in your trachea to assist breathing throughout the procedure.
The surgical team places several monitors on your body to help make sure that your heart rate, blood pressure and blood oxygen remain at safe levels throughout the procedure. These monitors include a blood pressure cuff on your arm and heart-monitor leads attached to your chest.