Total Thyroidectomy (for Thyrotoxicosis), Thyroid Gland Surgery

Total Thyroidectomy (for Thyrotoxicosis)

This webpage will give you information about a thyroidectomy. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.

What is the thyroid gland?

The thyroid gland is a structure in the neck that produces a hormone called thyroxine, which regulates the body’s metabolism. Sometimes this gland can become overactive. This is called thyrotoxicosis and can cause symptoms such as losing weight, sweatiness and eye problems.

What are the benefits of surgery?

You should no longer have any distressing symptoms.

Are there any alternatives to a total thyroidectomy?

Drugs are often used to begin with. However, these drugs have side effects. Radioactive iodine can sometimes be used.

It is possible to remove only part of the gland so that you continue to produce some thyroid hormones and do not have to start taking thyroxine tablets. However, you may need further treatment.

What does the operation involve?

The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic and usually takes between an hour and a half and two hours.

Your surgeon will make a cut in your neck in the line of one of your skin creases and remove the thyroid gland (see figure 1).

 

The thyroid gland from the front

 

Figure 1: The thyroid gland from the front

What complications can happen?

1 General complications

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection in the surgical site (wound)
  • Unsightly scarring
  • Blood clots

2 Specific complications of this operation

  • Change in your voice
  • Drop in calcium levels
  • Drop in thyroid hormone levels
  • Breathing difficulties

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home after one to two days.

You should be able to return to work and normal activities after about two weeks.

Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, you should ask a member of the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

A member of the healthcare team will ask you to go to a follow-up clinic. Your surgeon will discuss with you any treatment or follow-up you need.

Summary

Thyrotoxicosis is a condition caused by an overactive thyroid gland. The symptoms can be distressing. A thyroidectomy to remove the gland is one of a number of ways thyrotoxicosis can be treated.

Acknowledgements

Author: Mr Keith Rigg FRCS MD

Illustrations: Hannah Ravenscroft RM

This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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