A thyroidectomy is a procedure that may sound scary. Having this surgery depends on several conditions. Without a doubt, you might be wondering about the circumstances that may surround this procedure. In this article, we’ll be discussing a variety of key facts for understanding thyroidectomy.
13 Thyroidectomy Facts | Learn More About What to Expect
1. Defining Thyroidectomy
Thyroidectomy is a surgical procedure that involves the partial or complete removal of the thyroid gland. Several disorders call for this procedure as a means of treatment. In addition to this, the function that the thyroid gland serves can potentially make the effects of this surgery quite complicated. The doctor reccomends to do a thyroidectomy if there are no other viable options. Given this, doctors must make sure that thyroidectomy is really the best option.
2. Types of Thyroidectomy
The kind of thyroidectomy to be performed is dependent on the patient’s condition. It concerns which parts of the gland is affected and how it is affected. Moreover, there are 5 types of thyroidectomy:
- Total Thyroidectomy – In this procedure, the physician completely removes the entire thyroid gland.
- Thyroid Lobectomy – The surgeon removes an entire lobe of the thyroid gland.
- Partial Thyroid Lobectomy – Here, the surgeon removes only a part of the lobe of a thyroid gland.
- Thyroid Lobectomy with Isthmusectomy – This procedure involves having the surgeon remove the isthmus, found in the center of the gland, along with a lobe.
- Subtotal Thyroidectomy – This involves the surgeon removing a lobe, the isthmus, and part of the second lobe of the thyroid gland.
3. What Diseases Require Thyroidectomy
As previously mentioned, there are several conditions that require the intervention of thyroidectomy. The diseases that may require the full or partial removal of the thyroid gland include the following:
- Thyroid cancer – The doctor must remove the thyroid gland in this case to prevent the spread of cancer.
- Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland) – A surgeon must remove an overactive thyroid gland due to the excessive amounts of hormones produced.
- Large goiters or thyroid nodules – Large thyroid masses can obstruct breathing and swallowing.
- Multi-nodular Goiter – As previously mentioned, this condition can cause obstruction.
4. What Does the Surgeon Do
How exactly is a procedure such as a thyroidectomy done? The mere thought of removing any part of the body through surgery may seem scary. Knowing a bit more about the procedure itself may help alleviate anxiety. Here, we will briefly describe the various steps involved in this procedure.
Administration of general anesthesia allows the patient to fall asleep and be pain-free during the surgery. It is also possible for the surgeon to opt to use local anesthesia instead. The use of local anesthesia would mean that the patient would be awake but pain-free during the procedure.
The surgeon makes the incision right on top of the thyroid gland. This incision is usually 3 to 4 inches long. However, in some cases, the surgeon can scale the incision down to 2 inches long.
The doctor then removes all or part of the thyroid gland through the incision made. While doing this, the surgeon tries not to hit any blood vessels and nerves in the neck.
The surgeon then places a catheter in the area to prevent excessive blood and other fluids from building up. The doctor will then remove the catheter 1 to 2 days after the surgery.
Once the doctor removes the catheter he or she then closes up the incision with sutures (stitches). After this, you will have to wait a few more days to have this removed.
Steri-strips or Surgical Glue
This is an alternative to stitches. Your physician will remove the steri-strips 10-14 days following your operation. It is important that while these are still on, you practice proper care for your incision.
5. How Long Does the Surgery Take
If the surgeon is to remove the entire thyroid gland, the procedure can go on for as long as 4 hours. However, if the surgeon is only to remove a part of the thyroid gland, the operation won’t take as long.
6. Avoiding the Thyroidectomy Scar
Some patients are concerned about the unpleasant thyroidectomy scar. Because of this, several facilities now offer to perform scarless thyroidectomy procedures. The occurrence of a scar is avoided because, in this procedure, the surgeon opts to make small oral incisions. The technique described is what surgeons call the transoral approach.
7. Preparing for Surgery
A week before the surgery, the anesthesiologist will meet with you for a preoperative check. During this appointment, the doctor will have blood drawn to do tests to help prepare you for surgery. If you happen to be taking medications for blood thinning (i.e. aspirin, Plavix, ibuprofen, or Coumadin), you must bring this up with your physician.
8. Risks Involved
In any medical procedure, there are some risks. You must watch out for the issues stated below in the days following the procedure. Should you run into any related problems, be sure to consult your doctor.
- Recurrent laryngeal nerve injury – The recurrent laryngeal nerve controls the vocal cords. Should the surgeon injure your recurrent laryngeal nerve, you would definitely begin to hear hoarseness in your voice. Often, this hoarseness would eventually go away.
- Low blood calcium – The surgeon can accidentally injure the parathyroid gland while excising the thyroid gland during your operation. Any damage to the parathyroid gland can lead to a decline in blood calcium. Given this, the doctor will likely advise you to take calcium and vitamin D supplements.
- Bleeding – The chances of excessive bleeding to occur after the operation are 1/300. Because of this, doctors require their patients to stay overnight in the hospital for monitoring.
9. How Do I Care for the Incision
While you are caring for your incision, there are a few things you do and avoid. Let the following tips serve as a guide for caring for your incision. This especially applies to incisions that have been dressed with steri-strips or surgical glue.
- Dressing – If your doctor used surgical glue, there is no need to add any other dressing on your incision.
- Vitamin E oil – While you are waiting for it to heal, you may use vitamin E oil to help speed up the process. However, this is not necessary.
- Sun Protection – Protect your incision from the sun while you still have the steri-strips on. You can do this by applying sunscreen or shielding it from the sun.
- Showering – You can get the steri-strips damp while showering. However, be sure to not let them get soaking wet.
10. Post-Operation Medications
Patients who had a partial thyroidectomy procedure done on them are capable of fully recovering their thyroid functions. Those who underwent total thyroidectomy, on the other hand, will need to take thyroid hormone supplements (Levoxyl or Synthroid) for the rest of their life. Your endocrinologist monitors your thyroid hormone by means of a blood test. In addition to thyroid hormone supplements, physicians would also require some patients to take calcium supplements following their thyroidectomy.
11. Thyroidectomy Recovery Time
You will definitely need some time to recover following your operation. It would be best for you to allot 2 weeks following your operation to ensure a full recovery before returning to work or school.
12. Post Operation Dietary Restrictions
There are no dietary restrictions or requirements for those who have undergone thyroidectomy. However, consuming more fluids would definitely help with their recovery process.
13. Scheduling the Post-Operative Appointment
You should schedule an appointment with your surgeon 2-4 weeks after your surgery. This is necessary to ensure that you are recovering properly.
For more information about life after thyroidectomy, watch this video by Marisa Iacobell.
The thought of undergoing a thyroidectomy may be intimidating. However, it is important to understand that this procedure is a low risk one. And often, this is the best option for a full recovery. We hope that these facts have helped ease your anxiety surrounding the procedure even just a little bit.
Do you have any experience undergoing a thyroidectomy? Share your experience with us in the comments below!