The thyroid gland is a crucial part of your body as it helps to make and release hormones that regulate various processes.
As a gland in the neck that produces thyroid hormones, its main job is to help control your metabolism, but can cause many issues when it malfunctions. In such instances, the surgical removal of the thyroid gland may be needed. We spoke to Dr Tan Chuan Chien, Consultant General Surgeon from SOG Health, to find out more about how thyroid surgery is done.
Types of thyroid surgery
Generally, there are 2 main types of thyroid surgery:
- Removing half of the thyroid gland, also known as hemithyroidectomy
- Removing the entire thyroid gland, also known as total thyroidectomy
The type of surgery that is performed depends on the patient and what condition they intend to mitigate. People with hyperthyroidism may choose this surgery to reduce hormone production. Thyroid surgery can also remove cancerous or benign lumps. This can reduce the risk of thyroid cancer and resolve issues like compressed windpipe. In cases of thyroid cancer, the surgery may include removal of surrounding lymph nodes. Ultimately, the type of surgery that will be performed is dependent on an individual’s needs and what their doctor advises.
Thyroid surgery recovery
Should you decide to undergo thyroid surgery, your recovery time is estimated to be 4 to 6 weeks long. The operation is not large, and the surgeons can complete it within 2 to 3 hours. Patients will have to stay in the hospital for about 1 to 2 days. Once they wake up from the operation, patients should be able to eat, drink, and perform most activities. There are no food restrictions, but patients may find it easier to eat a soft diet in the first half of the week after their surgery if they feel soreness in their throat following the operation.
Complications of thyroid surgery
As thyroid surgery is a medium-sized operation, there are some complications that may arise following the procedure. First, there will be a scar on the patient’s neck, which may not be ideal. However, your doctor can advise a solution to reduce the extent of the scarring if it is a concern. Thyroid surgery may pose a potential long-term complication if it injures the recurrent laryngeal nerve, which runs to the voice box and controls it. Any damage may cause permanent voice change in patients and also potential swallowing problems and breathing difficulties. However, the chances of injuring this nerve are less than 1%. Finally, there is also a chance that the surgeon may injure the parathyroid gland, a set of 4 glands that sit around the thyroid gland that control the regulation of calcium in the body. In such circumstances, patients may experience low calcium levels that will require management through calcium supplements. Fortunately, the chances of injuring this gland are less than 2%.
If you have been considering thyroid surgery, watch the full video with Dr Tan to find out everything you need to know before you make your decision: Thyroid Surgery – Who Needs It And How Is It Like? | Dr. Tan Chuan Chien (General Surgeon)