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Thyroid Surgery

Thyroid Surgery: What to expect

Your thyroid is not likely a part of your body you think about much unless issues have emerged. The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped organ within your neck that releases hormones (Triiodothyronine and Thyroxine) that regulate vital functions within the body and ultimately impact all other organs. Some functions controlled by the thyroid are: 

1. Heart Rate

2. Metabolism

3. Body Temperature

4. Muscle Mass

5. Your Central and Peripheral Nervous Systems

6. Energy Levels

7. Digestion

8. Mood & more.


When the hormone levels are either too high or too low, you may begin to notice various symptoms such as anxiety, nervousness, hair loss, trouble sleeping, extreme fatigue, sensitivity to temperatures, joint and muscle pain, and more. The wide range of issues stemming from thyroid hormone imbalance can sometimes be challenging to diagnose, so if you experience any of these symptoms, a simple TSH level test can reveal or eliminate thyroid complications as the cause.


Thyroid Surgery: When is it Necessary?


Depending on your situation, thyroid hormone imbalances can be managed by medication, diet changes, radioactive iodine treatments, and partial or full removal of the thyroid altogether. Thyroid surgery, known as a thyroidectomy, is used to treat or even rule out thyroid cancer, Graves’ disease, recurrent thyroid cysts, or symptomatic nodules. Your doctor or ENT may recommend thyroid surgery if:


  • A potentially cancerous nodule is discovered on your thyroid
  • Diagnosis of thyroid cancer is necessary
  • A nodule that causes other symptoms such as difficulty swallowing 
  • A visible mass
  • Severe hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid in which your body produces too many thyroid hormones). 


What to Expect Before, During, and After Thyroid Surgery


Before surgery, you will undergo a few tests, such as an ultrasound and a biopsy. An ultrasound will allow your ENT to evaluate any lumps or nodules found during a routine exam. Ultrasounds can also be used to monitor the substantial growth of nodules over time. A Biopsy is performed under ultrasound guidance and involves your doctor inserting a fine needle through the skin into the thyroid nodule and withdrawing cells. These samples are collected and used to make a diagnosis regarding the potential tumor. Depending on your ultrasounds and/or biopsy results, your ENT will determine if surgery is essential. If it is, An ENT may perform further evaluation such as blood tests, an EKG, x-rays, and other imaging studies before surgery. 


Before surgery, your ENT will give you specific instructions on when to stop fluids and eating and review any medications you are taking. Follow the instructions very carefully for your safety. If you don’t, your ENT will likely reschedule your procedure. During surgery, you will be placed under anesthesia, and your ENT will remove all or part of the gland. This procedure will likely take around 2 hours. 


After your thyroidectomy or thyroid lobectomy, you will likely experience a sore throat, some pain and temporary difficulty swallowing. Your surgeon will provide you with post-operative recovery instructions that will include information on what you are to eat and drink and when you can return to a normal diet and activities. Recovery time will depend on your circumstances, but typically you can return to normal activities after about two weeks. 


Because the thyroid produces hormones vital to certain body functions, you will be required to take hormone replacements after removing your thyroid. Medication management will be necessary ongoing to determine the proper dosage amounts for optimal functionality.


Thyroid surgery is generally safe, and complications are not common. The overall risk of serious complications is less than 2%. If you have any questions about potential risks or would like more information on what to expect, do not hesitate to contact Camellia ENT. We have some of the best-skilled surgeons in the region. Learn about our skilled doctors here. Ask us about transoral robotic surgery options!

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