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Thyroid surgery is used to treat thyroid nodules, thyroid cancer, and hyperthyroidism. During this procedure, part or all of the thyroid gland is removed.
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 problems if:
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 medicines.
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.
If a large non-cancerous (benign) nodule causes symptoms, such as pain or problems breathing or swallowing, surgery may help relieve symptoms. All or part of the thyroid gland may be removed. Surgery may also help relieve symptoms if other treatments, such as draining a non-cancerous nodule filled with fluid (cyst), have not worked. Surgery may also be an effective treatment if you have a thyroid nodule that makes too much thyroid hormone.
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.
You may 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 complete thyroidectomy.
After surgery for hyperthyroidism, some people will have low calcium levels and may need to take calcium supplements.
Current as of: March 31, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Matthew I. Kim MD - Endocrinology & Kenneth Bark MD - General Surgery, Colon and Rectal Surgery
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