Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > Thyroid Surgery
Thyroid surgery is used to treat
thyroid cancer, and
hyperthyroidism. During this procedure, part or all of
thyroid gland is removed.
During surgery, an incision is made in the skin. The muscle
and other tissues are pulled aside to expose the thyroid gland.
Many people leave the hospital a day or two after surgery. How much time you spend in the hospital and how fast you
recover depend on your age and general health, the extent of the surgery, and
whether cancer is present.
Surgery is used to treat thyroid
Surgery is rarely used to treat hyperthyroidism. It may be
used if the thyroid gland is so big that it makes swallowing or breathing
difficult or thyroid cancer has been diagnosed or is suspected. Surgery also
may be done if you are pregnant or cannot tolerate antithyroid
You may have all or part of your thyroid gland removed,
depending on the reason for the surgery.
Some surgeons are now doing endoscopic thyroidectomies using several small incisions through which a tiny camera and instruments are passed.
Success of a thyroidectomy to remove
thyroid cancer depends on the
type of cancer and whether it has spread (metastasized) to other parts of the
body. You may need follow-up treatment to help prevent the cancer from
returning or to treat cancer that has spread.
Thyroid surgery is generally a safe surgery. But
there is a risk of complications, including:
If you have a total thyroidectomy,
you will develop
hypothyroidism and need to take man-made (synthetic)
thyroid hormone for the rest of your life. If you have a lobectomy or subtotal
thyroidectomy, you may have hypothyroidism and you may need to take thyroid
medicine for the rest of your life.
You will most likely be
treated with radioactive iodine after surgery for thyroid cancer to make sure
that all the thyroid tissue and cancer cells are gone.
have a lobectomy, with or without isthmectomy, if your doctor suspects that a
nodule may be cancerous. If you do have cancer, a surgeon usually will do a
After surgery for
hyperthyroidism, some people will have low calcium levels and may need to take
Complete the surgery information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this surgery.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerMatthew I. Kim, MD - Endocrinology
Current as ofNovember 20, 2015
Current as of:
November 20, 2015
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Matthew I. Kim, MD - Endocrinology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2016 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.