Your thyroid gland is one of the endocrine glands that makes hormones to regulate physiological functions in your body, like metabolism. Other endocrine glands are the pancreas, the pituitary, the adrenal glands, and the parathyroid glands. The thyroid gland is located in the middle of the lower neck, below the larynx, and wraps around the front half of the trachea.
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Thyroid diseases are very common, affecting millions of Americans. The most common thyroid disorders are:
Thyroid problems can be treated with hormone replacement pills, medication, radioactive iodine, or surgery.
Thyroid surgery (thyroidectomy) is an operation to remove part or all of the thyroid gland. It is performed in the hospital, and general anesthesia is usually required. Typically, the operation removes the lobe of the thyroid gland containing the lump and possibly the isthmus. A frozen section (immediate microscopic reading) may be used to determine if the rest of the thyroid gland should be removed during the same surgery.
Sometimes, based on the result of the frozen section, the surgeon may decide not to remove any additional thyroid tissue, or proceed to remove the entire thyroid gland, and/or other tissue in the neck. This decision is usually made in the operating room by the surgeon, based on findings at the time of surgery. Your surgeon will discuss these options with you before your thyroidectomy. As an alternative, your surgeon may choose to remove only one lobe and await the final pathology report before deciding if the remaining lobe needs to be removed. There also may be times when the definite microscopic answer cannot be determined until several days after surgery. If a malignancy is identified in this way, your surgeon may recommend that the remaining lobe of the thyroid be removed at a second procedure. If you have specific questions about thyroid surgery, ask your otolaryngologist to answer them in detail.
After a thyroidectomy, you may have a drain (tiny piece of plastic tubing), which prevents fluid and blood from building up in the wound. This is removed after the fluid accumulation has stabilized, usually within 24 hours after surgery. Most patients are discharged later the same day or the next day. Complications are rare but may include:
Following the thyroidectomy, if it is determined that you need to take any medication, your surgeon will discuss this with you prior to your discharge. Medications may include:
Some symptoms may not become evident for two or three days after surgery. If you experience any of the following, call your surgeon or seek medical attention:
If a malignancy is identified, thyroid replacement medication may be withheld for several weeks. This allows a radioactive scan to better detect any remaining microscopic thyroid tissue, or spread of malignant cells to lymph nodes or other sites in the body.
By removing the thyroid, your body will have reduced thyroid hormone production, known as hypothyroidism. Your physician may recommend medicinal options like levothyroxine for regulation.
CEENTA thyroid specialists can be seen in locations throughout both North and South Carolina.
Thanks to the American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery for this information.