My sister is scheduled for a thyroidectomy. Isn’t the thyroid an important gland? What could be the reasons for removing the thyroid and how dangerous is the surgery?
The primary reason for removing the thyroid is to treat thyroid cancer or to remove the gland if there is a nodule suspicious for cancer that cannot be determined with needle biopsy or diagnostic imaging. Other reasons include excessive thyroid hormone production (hyperthyroidism) that cannot be treated with medication or development of a large goiter that causes obstruction or swallowing issues.
The thyroid is important, helping to regulate metabolism. However, thyroid hormone can be easily replaced with oral synthetic or non-synthetic hormone. The surgery is safe and effective for controlling the issue, whether its hyperthyroidism, goiter, or cancer, and the complication rate is quite low.
Generally, an extended recovery is necessary, with the patient remaining in the hospital overnight, although some patients can go home the same day. Following surgery, in addition to taking thyroid hormone, monitoring of calcium levels is important. The parathyroid, which regulates calcium levels in the body, can be inadvertently damaged when the thyroid is removed. Other complications include damage to the vocal cord nerves, which can cause hoarseness, coughing, or swallowing problems.