Consultant Head and Neck, Thyroid Surgeon

Thyroid Surgery

Thyroid surgery should always be performed by an experienced surgeon who regularly performs thyroid operations. It is used in managing several disorders of the thyroid gland, such as:

Large thyroid or multi-nodular goitre (a goitre is an enlarged thyroid gland) causing obstructive symptoms of breathing or swallowing difficulties
Solitary nodule thyroid adenoma (a benign tumour)
Thyroid cancer
Graves’ disease (hyperthyroidism or thyrotoxicosis)
Recurrent thyroid cyst
For diagnosis where doubt exists about the nature of the nodule

Types of surgery

Total (or near total) thyroidectomy (removing all of the thyroid gland)
Lobectomy or hemithyroidectomy (removing half the thyroid gland)
Isthmusectomy (removal of central part of thyroid gland)

The operation

Pre-operative assessments include thyroid, calcium and other blood tests, and an electrocardiogram (ECG)
Occasionally other scans such CT scan or chest X-ray
Your vocal cords may also be checked
You will be asked to give your informed consent before surgery
You will have a general anaesthetic
An incision is made in the crease of your neck
The incision may be held together with clips, stitches, steristrips or glue
Small drainage tubes may be placed in the neck for a few days
You can expect to stay in hospital for one to four days
After the operation
You will be given a follow-up appointment
You will have a blood test within six to eight weeks to check thyroid function
Your scar usually becomes barely noticeable within six-twelve months
You may develop hypothyroidism (under-active thyroid) and need to take levothyroxine tablets
If a total or near-total thyroidectomy has been performed then you will be started on levothyroxine immediately post-operatively.

Click here to link to a document on recover from thyroid surgery by the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

Are there any possible complications?

A hoarse voice caused by damage to the nerve that supplies the vocal cords
Low calcium levels caused by a decreased blood supply or damage to the parathyroid glands. This is usually short-term.
After total thyroidectomy up to five to ten percent people may have permanent hypoparathyroidism and will need to take a calcium and vitamin D supplement for life
Hypertrophic scar (thickened scar)