What is the thyroid gland?
The thyroid gland is a structure in the neck that produces a hormone called thyroxine that regulates the body's metabolism. A thyroid nodule is where a lump develops in the thyroid gland.
What are the benefits of surgery?
You will no longer have the lump in your thyroid gland. If the lump is getting bigger, surgery may help to prevent an unsightly appearance and should improve any symptoms caused by the swelling.
Are there any alternatives to surgery?
Surgery is important so that your doctor can be sure what is causing the lump.
What does the operation involve?
The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic and usually takes about an hour. Your surgeon will make a cut in your neck in the line of one of your skin creases and remove part, or all, of the thyroid gland. (see figure 1).
What complications can happen?
General complications of any operation:
- Infection in the surgical wound
- Unsightly scarring
- Blood clots
Specific complications of this operation:
- Change in your voice
- Drop in calcium levels
- Drop in thyroid hormone levels
- Breathing difficulties
How soon will I recover?
You should be able to go home after one to two days. You should be able to return to work and normal activities after about two weeks. Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, you should ask a member of the healthcare team or your GP for advice.
A member of the healthcare team will ask you to go to a follow-up clinic. Your surgeon will discuss with you any treatment or follow-up you need.
A thyroid lump can cause an unsightly appearance or discomfort, or affect your breathing or swallowing. A thyroidectomy to remove the lump should improve your symptoms and help find out what is causing the lump.
Paying for the operation
Thyroidectomy costs are covered by most medical insurance policies, but please check with your insurer first. If you are paying for your own treatment the cost of the operation will be explained and confirmed in writing when you book the operation. Ask the hospital for a quote beforehand, and ensure that this includes the surgeon’s fee, the anaesthetist’s fee and the hospital charge for your procedure.
Author: Mr Keith Rigg FRCS MD
Illustrations: Hannah Ravenscroft RM
This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.
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