A thyroidectomy is a surgical procedure carried out to treat different thyroid conditions.
About a thyroidectomy
A thyroidectomy is a type of surgery that is carried out through a cut at the front of the neck. All of your thyroid gland or just part of it may be removed, usually through small cuts but this varies – discuss your specific case with your surgeon.
Your thyroid is an endocrine gland, which means it makes hormones and releases them directly into your bloodstream. It is a small butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of your neck.
It produces two main hormones – thyroxine (T4) and triodothyronine (T3). It is also produces calcitonin, which works with the parathyroid hormone to regulate the amount of calcium in the blood.
Your consultant may recommend surgery to remove all of your thyroid gland (a total thyroidectomy) if you have thyroid cancer.
It may also be used to treat non-cancerous (benign) tumours, an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) and goitre (a swelling in the front of your neck).
How is a thyroidectomy carried out?
A thyroidectomy is done under general anaesthetic, which means you'll be asleep during surgery.
The procedure usually takes one to two hours, depending on your condition and how big your thyroid is.
Your surgeon will make a cut across the front of your neck, just above your collar bone. They will locate and be careful to avoid your parathyroid glands and the nerves which are attached to your voice box.
Your surgeon will then detach your thyroid gland from these and the other surrounding structures and then remove all or nearly all of it.
Depending on your condition, it may also be necessary to remove some of the lymph glands from your neck.
Once removed, your surgeon will close up the cut using stitches.
The results in thyroid surgery are closely related to the experience and practice volume of your surgeon. Ask your surgeon about this.
After a thyroidectomy
You will need to stay in hospital for one to two days following a thyroidectomy.
When you wake up you'll have an intravenous drip in your arm, giving you fluids. This will be removed as soon as you are drinking enough normally.
You'll need to keep the surgical area on your neck dry for 48 hours after surgery.
The day after surgery you'll need to have a blood test to check the level of hormones in your system.
If all of your thyroid gland has been removed, you'll need to take a hormone replacement tablet everyday for life. This is just a one-a-day tablet.
"I would like to thank everyone at Cromwell Hospital for the fantastic way you looked after me. I could not fault anyone during the time I spent with you - from the point I arrived in reception, to the catering team and every member of staff throughout the changes of shift during my stay."
Anonymous, Cromwell Hospital patient
Published: 31 January 2020 | Review: 31 January 2023
Disclaimer: This information is published by Cromwell Hospital and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence and experience from over 30 years of treating patients. It has been peer reviewed by Cromwell Hospital doctors. The content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional. If you have any feedback on the content of this patient information document please email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 020 7460 5901.