Thyroid surgery

Q: What is the thyroid?

A: The thyroid gland is an organ that sits in the middle of the neck and on top of the trachea. IT is called the powerhouse of the body as it produces the thyroid hormone. the thyroid hormone is responsible for generating energy and giving the body the fuel to carry on the daily activities. 

Q: What are the reasons a person may need surgery on the thyroid?

A: I will summarize this into two main groups. It is very specific to every person that has a thyroid illness, but two main groups can be summarized. 

  1. Thyroid tumors - these can be benign or malignant tumors. Most of the benign tumors are called thyroid nodules and these are very common and usually do not have to be removed. When there is a thyroid nodule that appears suspicious or that is abnormal looking then we remove it. these can be biopsied or followed depending on the appearance and the size. Thyroid cancer is another type of tumor we remove and there are three main types of thyroid cancer (follicular, papillary, and anaplastic)The treatment options are specific to every situation.

  2. Thyroid hypo or hyperfunction - Most of the time if the thyroid function is compromised, it can be treated medically. There are situations when medical therapy is not enough and we need to intervene surgically. At times the thyroid gland is making too much hormone and the only way to stop it is to remove it. Also at times, the thyroid is very large and we have to remove it to allow for easier breathing and comfort.

Q: How much thyroid has to be removed when one has surgery?

A: at times the entire thyroid has to be removed and others only half. The thyroid has two lobes (right and left). We remove sometimes the lobe that contains the disease. When the diagnosis is cancer, most of the time we remove the entire thyroid is removed. 

Q: Do I need thyroid hormone supplements after thyroid surgery?

A: It depends on how much tissue is left behind and how well it works. A lot of times this is necessary to replace or supplement the amount being produced if there is any thyroid tissue left. Fortunately, this is not a problem and it is fairly easy to get an adequate level of the hormone to have a normal life after thyroid surgery. 

Q: Can my voice be affected by thyroid surgery?

A: Yes, The thyroid gland lives on top of the trachea, and it is close to two nerves on each side. These are the superior laryngeal nerve and the recurrent laryngeal nerve. Both of these innervates the vocal cords and help modulate and create the sounds that help us communicate in eh form of a voice. Thyroid surgery is design to try and preserve these nerves and most of the time we succeed, but it is a known risk of this type of surgery. 

Q: How long is the recovery after thyroid surgery?

A: This operation is done many times as an outpatient. Even if you stay overnight, most people are back to work within a week. IT is not a very painful operation and there are minimal restrictions for a period of 1-2 weeks only. 

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