Total thyroidectomy

What is the thyroid gland?

The thyroid gland is a structure in the neck that produces a hormone called thyroxine, which regulates the body's metabolism. Sometimes this gland can become overactive. This is called thyrotoxicosis.

What are the benefits of surgery?

You should no longer have any distressing symptoms.

Are there any alternatives to a total thyroidectomy?

Drugs are often used to begin with. However, these drugs have side effects and in certain circumstances should not be used. Radioactive iodine can also be used in some circumstances.

It is possible to remove only part of the gland so that you continue to produce some hormones and do not have to start taking thyroxine tablets. However, you may need further treatment.

What does the operation involve?

The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic and usually takes between an hour and a half and two hours.

Your surgeon will make a cut in your neck in the line of one of your skin creases and remove the thyroid gland (see figure 1).

Total thyroidectomy 

What complications can happen?

General complications of any operation:

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection of the surgical site (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.

Summary

Thyrotoxicosis is a condition caused by an overactive thyroid gland. The symptoms can be distressing. A thyroidectomy to remove the gland is one of a number of ways thyrotoxicosis can be treated.

Paying for your procedure

Total thyroidectomy costs are covered by most medical insurance policies, but please check with your insurer first. If you are paying for your own procedure the cost will be explained and confirmed in writing when you book the procedure. 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.

Acknowledgements

Author: Mr Keith Rigg FRCS MD

Copyright © 2009 Nucleus Medical Art. This information is produced by EIDO Healthcare Ltd and is licensed by BMI Healthcare. You may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information other than for your personal, non-commercial use. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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