The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck that produces the thyroid hormone. This hormone regulates body metabolism, overall growth and development, reproduction, and body temperature. The thyroid gland can either produce excessive or reduced amounts of thyroid. Both affect all the body functions mentioned above, and so it is important to maintain optimal levels of hormones in the body.
The thyroid gland may require removal in the following cases:
- Hyperactive gland: An autoimmune disease condition called Graves’ disease often causes hyperthyroidism. Thyroiditis is an inflammation of the gland and can be due to autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s. The thyroid gland can become hyperactive and produces hormones in larger amounts. This interferes with regular body function and so to bring down the hormone levels, the surgery is done.
- Nodules: Lumps or nodules formed in the thyroid are called goiter and require removal to avoid complications of interference with speech, talking, and breathing.
- Tumors: Though often benign, thyroid tumors could turn cancerous and therefore are removed to avoid complications. A good diagnosis often helps to determine if it requires removal.
Types of Thyroid Surgery
The thyroid gland has 4 lobes – superior and inferior and right and left. Depending on the severity of the condition, the surgery is decided.
- Lobectomy: In early Graves’ disease or if a particular lobe of the thyroid is affected, then lobectomy is done to get rid of the affected lobe. The tissue that is left behind is often adequate to meet the body’s thyroid hormone demands.
- Subtotal thyroidectomy: This is done in the moderate to severe cases of Graves’ disease and thyroid tumors. Most of the gland tissue is removed, leaving behind a very small portion of the thyroid. If subsequent tests identify that the person is hypothyroid, then supplements are given to maintain optimal thyroid levels.
- Total thyroidectomy: This is done in the cases of very large nodules, severe inflammation, or advanced cancer cases. This often requires starting immediate thyroid supplementation.
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What to Expect with Thyroid Surgery?
- A thyroid surgery is a major surgery done under hospitalization.
- Under anesthesia, an incision is made in the front of the neck depending on the surgery and accordingly, the planned portion of the thyroid gland is removed. With recent changes, this incision is avoided and the gland is accessed through the mouth or done via multiple smaller incisions in the neck.
- After the surgery, complete rest is required to recover from anesthesia and postoperative care.
- There could be changes to voice or hoarseness for a few days after the surgery.
- Thyroid supplements will be initiated depending on the actual condition that required the surgery and post-surgery thyroid testing.
Thyroid gland surgery is not very common but helps in managing multiple conditions like thyroid nodules, inflammation, and even thyroid tumors.