What Is Thyroid Surgery?
Thyroid surgery is an operation to remove part or all of the thyroid gland. It is performed in the hospital, and general anesthesia is usually required. Usually the operation removes the lobe of the thyroid gland containing the lump and possibly the isthmus. A frozen section (an immediate microscopic reading) may or may not be used to determine if the rest of the thyroid gland should be removed. Sometimes, based on the result of the frozen section, the surgeon may decide to stop and remove no more thyroid tissue, or proceed to remove the entire thyroid gland, and/or other tissue in the neck. This is a decision 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 preoperatively.
After surgery, you may have a drain (a tiny piece of plastic tubing), which prevents fluid from building up in the wound. This is removed after the fluid accumulation is minimal. Most patients are discharged one to three days after surgery. Complications after thyroid surgery are rare. They include bleeding, a hoarse voice, difficulty swallowing, numbness of the skin on the neck, and low blood calcium. Most complications go away after a few weeks. Patients who have all of their thyroid gland removed have a higher risk of low blood calcium post-operatively.
Patients who have thyroid surgery may be required to take thyroid medication to replace thyroid hormones after surgery. Some patients may need to take calcium replacement if their blood calcium is low. This will depend on how much thyroid gland remains, and what was found during surgery. If you have any questions about thyroid surgery, ask your doctor and he or she will answer them in detail.