What is thyroid surgery?

At The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, our ENT specialists care about you and want to help you achieve the best quality of life possible. For many patients with thyroid and parathyroid conditions, thyroid surgery may be the answer. Ohio State provides comprehensive endocrinology treatment to diagnose and treat a wide range of thyroid conditions.

Thyroid surgery, which constitutes the surgical removal of all or part of your thyroid gland, may be necessary for thyroid cancer, benign cysts, goiter removal (due to thyroid enlargement), nodules and overactive thyroid glands.


Thyroid disorders

There are a number of thyroid disorders that may require thyroid surgery or other advanced treatment options. These are:

  • Goiters – enlargement of the thyroid
  • Hyperthyroidism – the thyroid produces too much hormone
  • Hypothyroidism – the thyroid does not produce enough hormones
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Thyroid nodules – lumps in the thyroid gland
  • Thyroiditis – swelling of the thyroid

Parathyroid disorders

There are many parathyroid disorders that may require thyroid surgery or other advanced parathyroid treatment options. These include:

  • Hyperparathyroidism – the parathyroid produces too much hormone
  • Hypoparathyroidism – the parathyroid does not produce enough hormones, resulting in too little calcium and too much phosphorus in the body
  • Parathyroid cancer

A benign tumor on the thyroid or parathyroid gland may make either gland overactive. Too much hormone production can also come from enlarged glands. Very rarely, the cause is cancer. Injury to the glands, endocrine disorders or genetic conditions can be the cause of hypothyroidism and hypoparathyroidism.

Thyroid or parathyroid disorder symptoms

If you have a thyroid or parathyroid disorder, you may exhibit a wide range of symptoms, some of which may include:

  • Bowel movement irregularities
  • Change in voice
  • Cough
  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • Dry skin
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Goiter or enlarged thyroid
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Mood swings
  • Neck swelling
  • Pressure sensation
  • Sleeping issues
  • Thinning hair
  • Weight gain or loss

Thyroid disorders are difficult to identify through symptoms alone. To diagnose your condition, your doctor will discuss your symptoms, prescribe and review blood tests and imaging, and perform a thorough head and neck examination, including an evaluation of your vocal cords. If a thyroid nodule is present, a biopsy may be recommended, depending on the size and characteristics of the thyroid nodule. Further evaluation of voice-related issues may also be recommended.

Thyroid surgery and other treatment options

Depending on the specific thyroid condition that you are diagnosed with, there are a variety of treatment options available. Some of the treatments used may include medications, radioiodine therapy or thyroid surgery. A thyroidectomy or partial thyroidectomy may be recommended, particularly where thyroid nodules are present.

Depending on the specific condition, various treatments may be used, including medicines, radioiodine therapy or thyroid surgery. A thyroidectomy or partial thyroidectomy may be necessary, especially in the case of nodules. These are usually performed using radiofrequency ablation or ethanol ablation.

What to expect during thyroid surgery

If thyroid surgery is recommended, which often happens in the case of thyroid cancer, this is what you may expect from the procedure. Surgery is performed under a general anesthetic. The gland is removed through an incision in the neck. The surgery usually lasts two to four hours depending on the extent of surgery, and intraoperative nerve monitoring is frequently utilized. Some patients may be eligible to have their surgery performed on an outpatient basis or with an overnight stay.

Thyroid surgery recovery

During recovery, it’s typical to expect a sore throat and to possibly experience mild irregularity in swallowing (dysphagia), which is usually temporary. It takes about five to seven days to recover from the procedure.

Showering is allowed after 24 hours, provided the surgical area is protected from getting wet. Strenuous activity and heavy lifting are to be avoided until recovery is complete. There are no restrictions for eating, drinking or using your voice.

Why choose Ohio State for thyroid and parathyroid surgery

The Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center has been successfully evaluating and treating our patients with thyroid and parathyroid-related disorders for decades. Many of our patients are referred to us by local ENTs due to our outstanding reputation. We are recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the nation’s best hospitals for ear, nose and throat care.

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