The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located in front of the neck, just below the voice box (larynx). It produces thyroid hormone, which is necessary for metabolism and proper functioning of the body. Any disease or abnormality of this gland can cause many physiological problems in the body. Thyroid surgery or thyroidectomy is a procedure to remove a part or all of the thyroid gland. Total thyroidectomy is a surgical procedure to remove all of the thyroid gland. Partial or subtotal thyroidectomy involves removing a part of the thyroid gland.
Thyroid surgery is usually recommended for thyroid conditions such as nodules, cysts, thyrotoxicosis (overactive thyroid gland), cancerous and noncancerous tumours, and swelling of the thyroid that is making it difficult to swallow or breathe.
The surgery is performed under general anaesthesia. Your surgeon makes an incision, about 3 to 4 inches, in the centre of your neck, through which the thyroid gland is excised. A small tube (catheter) is inserted to drain accumulated blood and fluids. The incisions are then closed with stitches or sutures. This entire procedure takes about 4 hours to complete if the entire gland is removed and much less time when only a part of the gland is removed.
As with any surgery, thyroid surgery may involve certain risks and complications which include bleeding, infection, damage to parathyroid glands present near the thyroid, (resulting in low calcium levels) and damage to nerves connected to your larynx and vocal cords (causing hoarseness, speaking or swallowing problems).
After total thyroidectomy you will have to take thyroid hormone pills for the rest of your life.