Thyroid Surgery

What does the thyroid do?

The thyroid gland produces hormones that primarily help to regulate metabolism as well as growth during development.  While you can not live long term without thyroid hormone, there is a small inexpensive pill that can replace the hormone in those without a thyroid gland or a gland that isn't functioning properly.

Why would I need a thyroid surgeon to perform thyroid surgery?

There's many reasons why you might need thyroid surgery, but these are a few of the common reasons why you might need a Thyroid Surgeon:

  • Cancer or suspicion of cancer - the vast majority of thyroid cancers are easily cured if treated appropriately. This could require thyroid cancer surgery.
  • Enlargement of the thyroid gland (goiter) - the thyroid can grow so large that it compresses the trachea and can make it difficult to breath or swallow
  • Hyperactive thyroid - when the thyoid is overactive it can cause the metabolism to be too high and result in a rapid heart rate, weight loss, anxiety and other symptoms.  Sometimes the entire thyroid is overactive and other times there is only a small portion of the thyroid that is overactive. This requires hyperthyroid surgery.

Is thyroid surgery considered major surgery?

Thyroidectomy does require general anesthesia and there is a small risk of significant complications so yes it is considered major surgery.  However, a thyroidectomy is usually pretty easy to recover from and patients usually only require pain medications for a couple of days.

What are the potential complications of thyroid removal surgery?

  • Injury to the nerves that control the vocal cords which can result in hoarseness can be a potential complication from thyroid removal surgery
  • Injury to the parathyroid glands which can cause low blood calcium levels
  • Problems with bleeding and infection can occur with essentially any surgery but if blood collects in the neck after thyroid removal surgery it can become difficult to breath and result in an emergency

How would I know if I have thyroid cancer and need thyroid cancer surgery?

Usually you or your doctor will notice a lump in your neck.  The thyroid is located in the lower part of the neck near the middle.  If a lump is detected, an ultrasound is usually done to get a better idea of the size and shape of the nodule.  Based on the size and several other ultrasound imaging characteristics a biopsy may be recommended.  The biopsy is usually done as an FNA (fine needle aspiration) under ultrasound guidance.  A very thin needle is inserted into the nodule and cells are aspirated out.  The cells are sent to pathologist for analysis.  The results may be clearly benign, clearly cancer, or somewhere in between.  If the results are indeterminate, the cells may be sent out for further analysis which can take a few weeks – Dr. Harris recommends that his patients have this done if results are indeterminate.  If you do have thyroid cancer, thyroidectomy (thyroid cancer surgery) is generally recommended.  Sometimes the cancer is small enough that only one side of the thyroid is removed with thyroid removal surgery.  Without a thyroid gland, you will need supplemental thyroid hormone called levothyroxine or synthroid.  This is a very small inexpensive pill that is taken daily.  If you miss a dose or two, it is unlikely to be a problem because the drug is long acting.  However, if you do not take the drug for several weeks, it could lead to life threatening hypothyroidism.

What is the recovery from thyroid removal surgery?

You will probably stay one night in the hospital just to make sure there are no issues with bleeding or low calcium levels.  You will be able to eat and drink normally.  You may have some hoarseness which is usually due to the tube used by anesthesia or the manipulation of the area of the neck around the voice box and this will usually go away in a few days or a week or two - it is usually not due to permanent damage to the vocal cord nerves.  You can expect some soreness but the pain is usually fairly minimal.  You will be able to shower the day after your thyroid removal surgery.

thyroid removal surgeon birmingham

Contact A Thyroid Surgeon Today

Find the best board-certified general surgeon in Birmingham, AL. Dr. Adam S. Harris, M.D., is an experienced surgeon trained at Mayo Clinic. He has helped patients with thyroid issues or those needing other procedures, such as gallbladder surgery.

We are happy to answer any questions about hyperthyroid surgery, thyroid removal surgery, thyroid cancer surgery, thyroidectomy surgery, or other thyroid-type surgery. Schedule an appointment today at (205) 995-9700.

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