When is thyroid surgery indicated?
Thyroid surgery may be recommended for a range of thyroid diseases. These can include:
- an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) that has not resolved with medical therapy
- the presence of a nodule or nodules that are suspicious for cancer
- when the thyroid is causing pressure symptoms, such as breathing difficulties, choking, or the sensation of a lump in the throat
- thyroid cancer or a lesion suspected of being cancerous
- a goitre that has become enlarged and unsightly
- a thyroid that is growing into the chest- retrosternal extension
Typically all thyroid surgery is performed under general anaesthesia.
What is a hemithyroidectomy?
A hemithyroidectomy (or lobectomy) is surgery that removes one of the thyroid lobes (wings). This procedure may be recommended in order to resolve a number of thyroid conditions including nodules, suspected cancer, pressure symptoms, cosmetic reasons or to treat hyperthyroidism.
What is a total thyroidectomy?
A total thyroidectomy is when all, or nearly all, of the thyroid gland is removed. This may be done for benign thyroid conditions affecting both lobes or for cancer. Occasionally a surgeon will decide to leave a very small amount of healthy thyroid tissue behind in what is called subtotal thyroidectomy.
What is a minimally invasive thyroidectomy?
A minimally invasive thyroidectomy (or minimal access thyroidectomy) is when the surgeon gains access to the thyroid through a much smaller neck incision. This allows removal of a small part of the thyroid. It is a safe and feasible alternative to open thyroid surgery in selected cases.
A minimally invasive thyroidectomy may be considered for patients who require a hemithyroidectomy or a thyroid isthmusectomy (when the narrow band of tissue that connects the two thyroid lobes is removed).
The major advantages of this technique include:
- reduced impact on neck tissue
- better cosmetic results with reduced scar size
- reduced postoperative pain
- improved patient comfort
Thyroid Surgery Recovery
It is quite normal to feel some pain in your neck or throat after a thyroid procedure. It may also hurt to talk or swallow, but this should gradually ease.
Following your surgery it is usual to stay in the hospital overnight to make sure no problems arise. Most patients are able to return home within 24 hours after the procedure. You will be given instructions on how to care for your wound and when to return for review with your surgeon.
What are the risks of thyroid surgery?
The possible risks from thyroid surgery include:
- bleeding causing difficulty breathing
- injury to the recurrent laryngeal nerve causing voicing hoarseness
- damage to the parathyroid glands resulting in reduced blood calcium levels (hypocalcemia) requiring supplementation
- the overall risk of complications is minimal with an experienced surgeon.
Dr Andrew Kiu performs a wide range of surgery including Breast, Thyroid, Parathyroid & General Surgery.