Thyroidectomy: The surgical removal of part or all of the thyroid gland.
Subtotal thyroidectomy, the more commonly performed operation, involves removal of only a part of the gland. This procedure may be done to:
- Remove a tumor from the thyroid,
- Reduce the mass of a goitrous (enlarged) thyroid gland, or
- Treat hyperthyroidism (excess production of thyroid hormone).
Types of Thyroid Surgery
There are three main types of thyroid surgery:
- Total Thyroidectomy -- Complete Removal of the Thyroid
This is the most common type of thyroid surgery, and is often used for thyroid cancer, and in particular, aggressive cancers, such as medullary or anaplastic thyroid cancer. It is also used for goiter and Graves'/hyperthyroidism treatment.
- Subtotal/Partial Thyroidectomy -- Removal of Half of the Thyroid Gland
For this operation, cancer must be small and non-aggressive -- follicular or papillary -- and contained to one side of the gland. When a subtotal or partial thyroidectomy is performed, typically, surgeons perform a bilateral subtotal thyroidectomy which leaves from 1 to 5 grams on each side/lobe of the thyroid. A Harley Dunhill procedure is also popular, in which there's a total lobectomy on one side, and a subtotal on the other, leaving 4 to 5 grams of thyroid tissue remaining.
- Thyroid Lobectomy -- Removal of Only About a Quarter of the Gland
This is less commonly used for thyroid cancer, as the cancerous cells must be small and non-aggressive.
The Surgical Procedure
In the surgery, the surgeon will cut a 3- to 5-inch incision across the base of your neck in front. The skin and muscle are pulled back to expose the thyroid gland. The incision is usually made so that it falls in the fold of the skin in your neck, making it less noticeable.
Blood supply to the gland is "tied off," and the parathyroid glands are identified (so that they can be protected). The surgeon then separates the trachea from the thyroid, and removes all or part of the gland.
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