ZocdocAnswersWhat happens during a thyroidectomy?

Question

What happens during a thyroidectomy?

My doctor just diagnosed me with hyperthyroidism, and has recommended that I get a thyroidectomy. I'm a 50-year-old man, and I've never had surgery before. What should I expect the thyroidectomy to be like?

Answer

Anytime your doctor recommends a surgery, you should always ask about the details of the procedure, the risks, and the final outcome so there are no surprises in the end. Also, you should be sure to ask what the alternatives to surgery are, so you can be sure it is right for you. A thyroidectomy is actually quite simple. The surgeon will place an incision over your thyroid gland (just below the Adam's apple) and remove it, being sure not to damage your wind pipe, damage a few important nerves in the area, and 4 other glands that are near the area, the parathyroid glands. Two very uncommon post operative complications are low blood calcium (if the parathyroids are removed) or voice hoarseness (if the laryngeal nerves are damaged). If the surgery goes well and without post operative complication, you should heal well with only a small scar on your neck. In the USA, thyroidectomy is becoming a less common treatment for hyperthyoridsm. More often now, it is treated with radioactive iodine, a process that does not require surgery. There are reasons patients can't get radioactive iodine, you'll have to ask your doctor if this route was considered. Good luck with your operation.

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