What Is It?

Thyroidectomy is the surgical removal of part or all of the thyroid gland. This important gland, located in the lower front portion of the neck, produces thyroid hormone, which regulates the body's production of energy. A healthy thyroid gland is shaped like a butterfly, with right and left lobes connected by a bridge called the thyroid isthmus. Depending on the reason for a thyroidectomy, all or part of the thyroid gland will be removed. The various types of thyroidectomy include:

  • Partial thyroid lobectomy (a rare procedure) — Only part of one thyroid lobe is removed.

  • Thyroid lobectomy — All of one thyroid lobe is removed.

  • Thyroid lobectomy with isthmusectomy — All of one thyroid lobe is removed, together with the section between the two lobes (called the thyroid isthmus).

  • Subtotal thyroidectomy — One thyroid lobe, the isthmus and part of the second lobe are removed.

  • Total thyroidectomy — The entire thyroid gland is removed.

A thyroidectomy may be performed by using a conventional surgical approach or a newer endoscopic method done through very small incisions.

What It's Used For

Conventional thyroidectomy is done for the following reasons:

  • To remove malignant (cancerous) thyroid tumors

  • To treat thyroid storm, a condition in which an overactive thyroid gland produces extremely high levels of thyroid hormone that cannot be easily controlled

  • To remove all or part of a goiter (an enlarged thyroid gland) that is pressing on neighboring structures in the neck, especially if this pressure interferes with swallowing or breathing

  • To remove and evaluate a thyroid nodule that on biopsy has had repeated "indeterminate" readings

In some people, as an alternative to a conventional thyroidectomy, an endoscopic thyroidectomy can be done to remove small thyroid cysts or small benign thyroid nodules (less than 4 centimeters, or about 1 ½ inches). Endoscopic thyroidectomy is not used to treat multiple thyroid nodules, thyroid cancer or thyroid storm.

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