Thyroid surgery: what is it and when is it necessary?

Thyroid surgery: what is it and when is it necessary?

Thyroid surgery or thyroidectomy consists of the partial or total removal of the thyroid gland. This thyroid gland, located at the base of the neck and shaped like a butterfly, is responsible for producing the thyroid hormone that regulates our body’s metabolism, thus affecting the speed with which we burn calories or heart rate, among others.

Thyroid surgery is used to treat the following conditions:

  • Thyroid cancer: it is one of the most frequent reasons why thyroidectomy is performed, so in these cases all or most of the thyroid gland is usually removed.
  • Thyroid nodules: also in the event of the appearance of suspicious thyroid nodules, which cannot be clearly identified as cancerous or non-cancerous after analysis by biopsy, it is usual to recommend a thyroidectomy to remove them in case there is a higher risk of them being cancerous.
  • Non-cancerous enlargement (goiter) or inflammation of the thyroid: If the thyroid gland becomes excessively enlarged, or inflamed, It can clog the throat, causing trouble breathing or swallowing. Such excessive enlargement of the gland can also cause hyperthyroidism.
  • Overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism): hyperthyroidism is a disorder in which the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone, causing an excessively fast metabolism that causes various symptoms such as anxiety, nervousness, difficulty sleeping, tremors, muscle weakness and excessive weight loss (even with a high-calorie diet), among others. In these cases, thyroid surgery is an alternative to other antithyroid drug treatments or radioactive iodine therapy.

How is thyroid surgery performed?

Thyroid surgery is performed under general anesthesia, so a breathing tube is placed in the patient’s trachea so that he/she can breathe during the procedure.

Once the patient is anesthetized and intubated, the surgery begins. There are several techniques or methods for this type of surgery:

  • Conventional thyroidectomy
  • Transoral thyroidectomy
  • Endoscopic thyroidectomy

Depending on the reason for the surgery, the entire thyroid gland or only part of it is removed, which influences its long-term effects:

  • If the entire thyroid gland is removed, the body will no longer be able to produce thyroid hormone on its own, causing symptoms of hypothyroidism if left untreated. In these cases, the patient will need to take a daily supplement (pill) of synthetic thyroid hormone, which replaces the natural function of the thyroid.
  • If only part of it has had to be removed, in many cases the rest of the thyroid gland can take over producing thyroid hormone to regulate metabolism, with no further treatment being necessary. However, in some cases the remaining unremoved portion of the gland may not produce enough thyroid hormone and thyroid hormone supplementation may be necessary.

As for the duration of the surgery, it can vary between one and two hours, depending on its scope. After surgery, depending on the type of procedure performed, the patient may be able to go home the same day or may have to stay in hospital until the next day. When returning home, the first days after surgery, the patient should avoid exertion or intense activities.

Lastly, the incision scar takes up to a year to completely disappear after surgery, and it is advisable to protect the area from sun exposure until then to help make it less visible.

Thyroid surgery at Vithas Xanit Internacional

If you are looking for a specialist in thyroid surgery, remember that at Vithas Xanit Internacional we put at your disposal the best specialists, the most recent surgical technology and the least invasive techniques, in order to offer you the best results in your surgery or treatment. Contact us for more information or make an appointment.