Thyroid Surgery

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland found on your neck, at the top of your throat. Controlled by the pituitary gland in the brain, the thyroid creates the hormone that controls the speed of your metabolism.

It is common to develop problems that require thyroid surgery. While many people with under or overactive thyroids (hypo or hyperthyroidism) take medication to control their symptoms, other conditions require removing some or all of the gland.

At North Carolina Specialty Hospital, our team of ear, nose, and throat surgeons uses the most advanced surgical approaches. When you choose NCSH, you can rest assured that you will receive the highest quality personalized care in a safe and supportive environment.

Why Do Patients Need Thyroid Surgery?

Not everyone who has a thyroid disease requires surgery. Many people respond to
medication or other treatments.

However, surgery is often recommended if there are tumors, nodules, or goiter present.
Thyroid nodules are growths that may be solid or fluid-filled (cystic). Your doctor may
perform a fine-needle aspiration to determine whether the nodule contains cancer cells
before recommending surgery. Not all nodules require immediate surgical removal.

A goiter refers to an enlarged thyroid gland. Goiters can typically be seen or felt and may
be caused by fast-growing cells. As the thyroid works harder to produce thyroid hormone,
it may increase in size.

Like nodules, goiters do not always require surgical removal. In general, there are four
scenarios in which doctors recommend thyroid surgery.

  • If you’ve been diagnosed with thyroid cancer
  • If tests reveal a nodule that may be thyroid cancer
  • If you have a thyroid nodule or goiter that is unsightly or causing symptoms like difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • If you have a nodule or goiter producing and secreting excess amounts of thyroid hormones and causing additional symptoms or illness

Surgery may accompany other treatments.

The Types of Thyroid Surgery

The surgery that you will have for thyroid disease depends on your diagnosis. Surgeons strive to preserve as much of the gland as possible, but total removal may be necessary in the case of a large cancerous tumor or a significant goiter. In fact, any time there is a diagnosis or suspicion of cancer, surgery to remove the suspicious nodules is the first line of treatment.

There are four types of surgery commonly performed on thyroids:

  • Open Thyroid Biopsy
    This rarely used type of surgery removes a nodule, leaving the rest of the gland in place.
  • Thyroid lobectomy (Hemi Thyroidectomy)
    This procedure removes one-half of the thyroid (one lobe).
  • Isthmusectomy
    Reserved specifically for small tumors located on the thyroid tissue between the two lobes, this procedure removes all of that tissue (the isthmus) while leaving the lobes in place.
  • Total Thyroidectomy
    This procedure removes most or all of the thyroid tissue.

Are There Other Options Besides Surgery?

Again, thyroid surgery is always indicated for cancerous nodules on the gland. However, if you do not have thyroid cancer, you may have nonsurgical treatment options depending on your condition.

What Happens During a Thyroid Surgery?

If your doctor recommends surgery to treat your thyroid disease, you will likely have a lot of questions, like “How long does thyroid surgery take?” and “Is it an outpatient procedure?” You will also likely have questions about recovery and life after surgery. Do not worry. Your surgeon and the team at North Carolina Specialty Hospital are with you at every step and will make sure you have all the information you need before and after the procedure.

An Overview of the Procedure

In most cases, thyroid surgery is an outpatient procedure. The actual surgery takes about 2–2.5 hours, and you can expect to go home after a few hours in recovery. Some patients spend the night in the hospital depending on their age, whether they have any other conditions, or how they react to anesthesia.

Thyroid surgery can be performed in several ways. Your surgeon will use either a standard neck incision or a minimally invasive video-assisted incision, or they may perform a robot-assisted procedure, in which the incision is made in the back of the neck.

What to Expect During Recovery

When you go home after thyroid surgery, you can typically return to normal activity the next day, but you should avoid extreme physical activity for ten days to two weeks. This is to prevent blood clots and re-opening the wound. After two weeks, your doctor will check your healing and clear you for all activities.

Thyroid surgery leaves a small scar on your neck. It is also very likely that you will need to take thyroid medication for the rest of your life after having some or all of the gland removed. For a partial thyroidectomy, there is an 80% chance you will take medication. Replacement hormones are a must after a total thyroidectomy, even when there are plans for additional treatment with radioactive iodine, radiation, or chemotherapy for cancer patients.

Why Choose North Carolina Specialty Hospital

North Carolina Specialty Hospital is one of the highest-rated facilities in the area, achieving the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) coveted five-star rating for patient experience. You will have access to North Carolina ear, nose, and throat surgeons who are among the most highly-trained and experienced in the field, and a safe, clean, and comfortable environment before, during, and after your procedure.

To learn more or if you have questions about NCSH and the care you can expect as a patient here, contact us today.


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