Thyroid surgery

This surgery removes part or all of the thyroid gland in your neck.  The thyroid is a gland in your neck that produces hormones to regulate your metabolism which affects your weight, energy levels etc.

Q: Why would I need the operation?

You may have a large thyroid gland (goitre), or you may have nodule(s) = lumps in your gland that may be concerning. You may also have an over functioning gland that is not well controlled with medications.

Q: What symptoms would I experience with this problem?

You may have symptoms of an over functioning gland. You may feel a lump in the neck. You may not have had any symptoms, but nodules are detected incidentally on ultrasound which require further evaluation.

Q: How do I know for sure that I have the condition and therefore need this operation?

You may have already seen an endocrinologist (specialist who deals with hormones in the body) about the thyroid gland. Alternatively, your GP may have sent you off to have an ultrasound done. Either way, the best way to know whether you have thyroid problems is to do a blood test and ultrasound.

Q: What scar will I have and what does the procedure involve?

In removing part of or all of the thyroid, you will have an 8cm scar running across the lower part of your neck. This allows the surgeon to remove half of the gland or the whole gland. 

Q: What anaesthetic will I have and do I have a choice?

You will need a general anaesthetic.

Q: What are the possible complications and what are the chances that they will occur?

The risks of this operation are low but can be serious. Bleeding is a serious problem and you will be monitored for this. Should this occur you may need to go back to the operating theatre to have this stopped.  There is a nerve on each side of the neck that supplies the vocal cord. This nerve is at potential risk and you may develop a hoarse voice should one of these nerves be damaged. Finally, there are 4 small glands (parathyroid glands) in the neck that control the calcium level in your body - 2 on each side. You need at least 1 of these glands to control the calcium. If you are having the whole thyroid gland removed there is a risk that all 4 of these small glands are taken with it - hence your calcium levels may become very low. Your calcium levels will be monitored whilst you are in hospital. 

Q: What can I expect after the operation?

You will have a drain for 2 days. You will be in hospital for at least 2 days. The drain is removed prior to you going home.

Q:How long should I be off work?

We recommend a week off work to recover from the surgery.

Q: What if things do not go according to plan after the operation?

If you feel tingling in your hands or muscle cramping, this may be an indication that your calcium level is low. If you are prescribed caltrate, you should take 2 tablets every hour until the sensation goes away. Otherwise you need to present to the emergency department of the hospital.

Q: When will I see my surgeon for review? 

Your surgeon will see you within 2 weeks of surgery.