The thyroid is a gland in the neck that produces hormones responsible for regulating the body’s metabolism. Too much or too little hormone can cause serious medical complications; this can occur as the result of diseases, nodules on the thyroid or cancer. In cases such as these, thyroid surgery may be necessary for treatment.

When certain conditions interfere with normal thyroid production, surgical removal of the thyroid gland is performed. This is usually done when thyroid cancer has been detected, an otherwise benign thyroid nodule grows so large it causes problems or hyperthyroidism (a disorder in which excess thyroid hormone is produced) does not respond to treatment with medications or radioactive iodine, though this is rare.

Thyroid surgery is known as a thyroidectomy. Two types of procedures are performed: a total thyroidectomy to remove the entire gland, or a subtotal thyroidectomy, which removes part of the gland.

In a total thyroidectomy, the entire gland and surrounding lymph nodes are removed. The patient is given drugs to suppress thyroid hormone production as well as radioactive iodine. A subtotal thyroidectomy involves removal of one complete gland and part of the other, which is usually reserved for treating hyperthyroidism caused by Grave’s disease.

The effectiveness of any surgical thyroid procedure depends on the type of cancer present and how much it has spread. Overall, the surgery is considered safe, but it can lead to complications that include injury to the vocal cords and larynx (causing hoarseness, changes in the voice and problems speaking or swallowing), injury to the parathyroid glands, (which could cause hypoparathyroidism, a separate condition in which too little parathyroid hormone is produced), difficulty breathing and the usual risks associated with most surgical procedures (bleeding and infection).

Thyroid

The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland in the neck that is responsible for producing hormones. It regulates the body’s metabolism, but is prone to disorders involving abnormal amounts of hormone production. When the thyroid produces too much hormone, a condition called hyperthyroidism occurs. Metabolism speeds up and causes a rapid or irregular heartbeat, nervousness,…

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Parathyroid

The parathyroid is another gland in the neck responsible for producing hormones. It controls the levels of calcium in the body and is also prone to disorders involving abnormal amounts of hormone production. Hyperparathyroidism occurs when excess hormone is produced, leading to an overabundance of calcium in the blood. Symptoms include osteoporosis, lack of energy,…

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Lymph Nodes

Lymph nodes are masses of lymphatic tissue that play a critical role in the body’s immune response system. There are many lymph nodes in the body, located primarily in the neck, breast, armpit and groin. Their job is to filter cancer cells and bacteria traveling through the body. The lymph nodes are susceptible to cancer, so they may be biopsied or surgically removed.

Esophagus

The esophagus is an organ in the throat through which food passes. It can be affected by reflux, cancer, tears, constrictions and more. The esophagus is difficult to access surgically, but surgery may still be necessary in cases where consuming and digesting food is inhibited.