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The London Thyroid & ENT Clinic
Home > Operations on the Thyroid Gland

Operations on the Thyroid Gland

Before surgery, all patients will have their operation discussed with them and will be given a written information sheet. Surgery is always based on informed consent and patients always know exactly what operation they will be undergoing, before admission to hospital, and will not be asked to agree to further or alternative procedures.

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Before surgery, all patients will have their operation discussed with them and will be given a written information sheet.  Surgery is always based on informed consent and patients always know exactly what operation they will be undergoing, before admission to hospital, and will not be asked to agree to further or alternative procedures.

Thyroidectomy is the term for removal of all or part of the thyroid gland. Total thyroidectomy describes removal of the whole gland; this may be required because the whole gland is enlarged (a goitre) or because it is overactive.  Partial thyroidectomy, removal of part of the gland, is usually a thyroid lobectomy, to remove a  nodule (lump) on one side of the gland, or to ascertain the nature of a lump.

Patients who have the entire thyroid gland removed have to take thyroxine tablets for the rest of their lives.  The correct dose varies for different people and can be monitored by a simple blood test.  This does not affect people’s ability to lead a normal, active life.  Most patients who have only part of the gland removed, do not need any medication. 

Occasionally the parathyroid gland may be removed, or damaged, during thyroid surgery.  When the whole thyroid gland is removed, the parathyroid glands tend to “shut down” for a few weeks.  If this occurs patients are normally given calcium tablets for about a month, to allow the parathyroid glands to recover.  Very rarely the parathyroid glands do not recover and then calcium tablets, as well as thyroxine, may be prescribed for the rest of the patient’s life.

After the operation your neck will feel stiff and you will have a sore throat.  This is due to having a tube in the trachea (windpipe) during surgery; because the thyroid is near the larynx (voice box), you may also experience a bit of hoarseness after operation but this will quickly improve.  If the recurrent laryngeal nerves have been bruised, the hoarseness will last longer, but will almost always recover spontaneously.

The scar heals quite quickly.  Although it is often fairly red and can be quite thick initially, over a period of several months it settles down and becomes paler and thinner.

Oncology

Some patients who have surgery for thyroid cancer may need further treatment.  This will be decided when the results of the specimens taken at operation have been fully analysed.  In some cases this will involve treatment with radioactive iodine, under the care of one of our expert consultant oncologists, who will discuss the treatment fully before it starts. 

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