Find over 200 print-friendly fact sheets about heart disease and related health topics.
Thyroid surgery is used to treat
thyroid cancer, and
hyperthyroidism. During this procedure, part or all of
thyroid gland is removed. The
thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the front of the
During surgery, an incision is made in the skin. The muscle
and other tissues are pulled aside to expose the thyroid gland.
Many people leave the hospital a day or two after surgery. How much time you spend in the hospital and how fast you
recover depend on your age and general health, the extent of the surgery, and
whether cancer is present.
Surgery is used to treat thyroid
Surgery is rarely used to treat hyperthyroidism. It may be
used if the thyroid gland is so big that it makes swallowing or breathing
difficult or thyroid cancer has been diagnosed or is suspected. Surgery also
may be done if you are pregnant or cannot tolerate antithyroid
You may have all or part of your thyroid gland removed,
depending on the reason for the surgery.
Some surgeons are now doing endoscopic thyroidectomies using several small incisions through which a tiny camera and instruments are passed.
Success of a thyroidectomy to remove
thyroid cancer depends on the
type of cancer and whether it has spread (metastasized) to other parts of the
body. You may need follow-up treatment to help prevent the cancer from
returning or to treat cancer that has spread.
Thyroid surgery is generally a safe surgery. But
there is a risk of complications, including:
If you have a total thyroidectomy,
you will develop
hypothyroidism and need to take man-made (synthetic)
thyroid hormone for the rest of your life. If you have a lobectomy or subtotal
thyroidectomy, you may have hypothyroidism and you may need to take thyroid
medicine for the rest of your life.
You will most likely be
treated with radioactive iodine after surgery for thyroid cancer to make sure
that all the thyroid tissue and cancer cells are gone.
have a lobectomy, with or without isthmectomy, if your doctor suspects that a
nodule may be cancerous. If you do have cancer, a surgeon usually will do a
After surgery for
hyperthyroidism, some people will have low calcium levels and may need to take
Complete the surgery information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this surgery.
March 28, 2011
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Matthew I. Kim, MD - Endocrinology
To learn more visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2012 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.