Total thyroidectomy

If you are having problems with your thyroid gland, it can be treated.

What is the thyroid gland?

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The thyroid gland is a structure in your neck that produces a hormone called thyroxine, which regulates your body's metabolism. Your thyroid gland has become overactive and is producing too many hormones. This is called thyrotoxicosis and can lead to some distressing symptoms such as losing weight, tremors, sweatiness, being unable to cope with heat, difficulty sleeping and eye problems.

What are the benefits of surgery?

Your body will stop producing thyroid hormones so you should no longer have any distressing symptoms.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

Medication, such as carbimazole or propylthiouracil, can be used to control thyroid activity and are often used to begin with. Radioactive iodine can also be used for some people. It is possible to remove only part of the gland so that you continue to produce some thyroid hormones and do not need to start taking thyroxine tablets. However, your thyroid gland may become overactive or underactive in the future, and you may need further treatment.

What does the procedure involve?

The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic and usually takes 90 minutes to 2 hours. Your surgeon will make a cut on your neck in the line of one of your skin creases, and then your surgeon will remove the thyroid gland.

What complications can happen?

Like all surgical procedures, there are some levels of risks to consider. Some of these can be serious and can even cause death. However, you can speak to your doctor about the following general and specific complications that may worry you.

General complications of any operation

  • Pain
  • Infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • Unsightly scarring of your skin
  • Blood clot in your leg
  • Blood clot in your lung

Specific complications of this operation

  • Bleeding
  • Change in your voice
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Thyroid hormone levels in your blood will drop
  • Drop in calcium levels in your blood
  • Thyroid hormone levels in your blood may increase

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home after 1 to 2 days and will be able to return to work and normal activities after about 2 weeks, depending on how much surgery you need and your type of work. Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

Most people make a full recovery and can return to normal activities. The healthcare team will usually arrange for you to come back to the clinic within 4 weeks. Your surgeon will tell you the results and discuss with you any treatment or follow-up you need.

Summary

Thyrotoxicosis is a condition caused by an overactive thyroid gland. A thyroidectomy to remove the gland is one of several ways thyrotoxicosis can be treated. To find out more, call us on 0808 101 0337.

 

Acknowledgements

Author: Mr Keith Rigg FRCS MD

Illustrator: Medical Illustration Copyright © Medical-Artist.com

What to do next

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