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A thyroidectomy involves the surgical removal all or part of the thyroid gland. Surgeons often perform a thyroidectomy when a patient has thyroid cancer or some other condition of the thyroid gland (such as hyperthyroidism).

The thyroid produces several hormones, such as thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), and contains the parathyroid glands, which produce calcitonin.

Thyroid problems can often be treated medically, but in some cases, the thyroid needs to be removed. The extent of thyroid removal depends on the patient?s condition.

  • Partial thyroid lobectomy- the removal of part of a lobe
  • Thyroid lobectomy- the removal of an entire lobe
  • Thyroid lobectomy with isthmusectomy- the removal of the isthmus in addition to a lobe
  • Subtotal thyroidectomy- the removal of a lobe, the isthmus, and part of the other lobe
  • Total thyroidectomy- the removal of the entire thyroid gland


A thyroidectomy is performed under general anesthesia, which will keep you asleep during surgery.

A five-inch incision is made perpendicular to the length of the neck. The thyroid gland and blood vessels are then exposed. Blood supply to the thyroid gland is clamped off. Then, part of or the entire gland is removed. A drain made of plastic tubing may be placed in the operated site before the incision is closed.

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Risks and complications

As with any surgery, there are risks such as bleeding, infection, or an adverse reaction to anesthesia. Rare but possible risks include

  • inadequate thyroid function,
  • damage to the parathyroid glands,
  • airway obstruction,
  • paralysis of vocal cords, and
  • inadequate calcium in the blood.

Patients often remain in the hospital one to four days after the operation. If the entire gland is removed, thyroid supplements for life will be required. After the removal of a thyroid patients usually take prescribed oral synthetic thyroid hormones to prevent the most serious manifestations of the resultant hypothyroidism.

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