The main two types of thyroid operation that a surgeon can perform are:
- Lobectomy, removing half of the gland with the isthmus, and
- Total or near-total thyroidectomy, which means removing nearly all identifiable thyroid tissue.
Thyroid lobectomy is usually recommended for overactive solitary nodules or benign nodules that are large in size causing compression symptoms, such as hoarseness of the voice, difficulty in breathing and swallowing.
For patients with thyroid cancer, Grave’s disease and enlarged multinodular goiters, most surgeons will advocate a total or near-total thyroidectomy.
Are there any risks in thyroid surgery?
Thyroid surgery is a very delicate type of surgery that requires expertise and skills on behalf of the operating surgeon. Complications are uncommon (less than 2%), the most serious being:
- Bleeding, that can result in acute, life-threatening respiratory distress.
- Hoarseness of the voice or complete loss of voice, transient or permanent, due to damage to the recurrent laryngeal nerves that innervate the vocal cords. Tracheotomy may be necessary in rare cases.
- Damage to the parathyroid glands that control the metabolism of calcium in the body resulting in hypocalcemia and muscle weakness, twitches or spasm.
Will i be able to lead a normal life after thyroid surgery?
All patients can have a completely normal life following a lobectomy or even total thyroidectomy. Most people can resume their usual everyday activities on the first postoperative day, even though some surgeons recommend some limitation in strenuous physical activity briefly after surgery.
Some people with thyroid cancer may need to receive Radioactive Iodine Therapy (RAI) following thyroid surgery in order to eliminate any remaining cancerous foci in the body.
Patients undergoing total thyroidectomy require lifelong thyroid hormone replacement therapy following surgery since there will be no internal source of thyroid hormone remaining. The dosage of thyroid hormone taken on a daily basis usually depends on every patient’s body weight, general physical condition and daily activities.