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What is a thyroidectomy?

The thyroid is responsible for hormones that control the metabolism and heart rate. A thyroidectomy is a surgery done to remove part or the entire thyroid gland located at the base of the neck.

How is a thyroidectomy done?

Once under general anaesthesia, depending on whether you are having a thyroidectomy or a partial thyroidectomy, Dr. Noorbhai will either do the surgery endoscopically or use traditional open surgery.

Endoscopically, small puncture-like incisions are made in the throat or axilla (armpit) to insert a thin tube with a camera. Small surgical instruments will be inserted in the same way and will be used to remove a part or the whole thyroid. Finally, your surgeon will close the puncture-like incisions with absorbable stitches or surgical staples.

Open surgery will require a small incision to be made near the collarbone in the midline. The muscles are separated to gain access to the thyroid. The thyroid or part thereof is then cut loose and removed. The incision is then closed with absorbable stitches or surgical staples.

He may also examine the lymph nodes during the procedure and remove the lymph nodes around the thyroid if cancer is suspected.

Why would a thyroidectomy be done?

A thyroidectomy is done to remove a cancerous thyroid tumour, , to remove a goitre (large mass) that is interfering with breathing and swallowing, or to take a sample of the thyroid nodule for testing. Whether or not the repair can be done with laparoscopic surgery or open surgery will depend on your specific case and general health.

How long will I be in hospital?

Most thyroidectomy patients are able to go home after a night’s stay and observation in hospital. The morning after surgery, your incisions will be evaluated, and fluids drained if necessary. How soon you will be discharged from hospital depends on whether you are able to drink liquids when waking up, how much pain you have and whether you have someone to look after you at home.

What will happen after my thyroidectomy?

Following surgery you may experience the following:

  • Neck pain.
  • Sore and hoarse voice.
  • Red skin around your wounds.

All these symptoms are normal and are nothing to be concerned about, and your voice should return to normal in a few days. Re-consult if you have an unusually high temperature, chills, vomiting, swelling around the incisions, bleeding, oozing from the wound, you are experiencing excessive pain, or you cannot talk as emergency care may be needed. Approximately 3 weeks after your operation you will be seen by your surgeon to check your wounds.

How soon after the surgery can I resume normal activities?

You will be able to resume normal activities soon after your surgery; however, it is important to start slowly. If you experience pain during a certain activities, stop that activity. You may not do any heavy lifting or vigorous physical activity for at least 10 – 14 days after surgery.

What are the potential risks and complications of a thyroidectomy?

The risk of complications during surgery is very low; however, there are risks involved in any surgery, and the following complications can occur:

  • Infection of the wound or internal infection.
  • Airway obstruction caused by bleeding.
  • Bleeding.
  • Damage to the parathyroid glands which may lead to hyperthyroidism.
  • Permanent hoarse voice to nerve damage.
  • Risks from general anaesthetic.
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