The butterfly-shaped thyroid may be a small gland, but it is responsible for some large bodily functions. It consists of two lobes with a center connecting area called an isthmus. The thyroid regulates the body’s metabolism, it works to control the body’s internal temperature, and it is the source of the body’s hormones. The thyroid is located in the front area of your neck below the voice box and above the collar bone.
Because the thyroid is self-contained, having part or all of the gland removed generally corrects the malfunctions. However, when the majority of the thyroid is removed, it will not be able to produce hormones or perform its other functions. Your doctor will prescribe a thyroid supplement that will need to be taken daily so that you will be able to enjoy a fully active lifestyle.
Before your operation, the surgeon will tell how to prepare for the operation, what prescription and over-the-counter medicines and supplements that you need to stop taking or can take on the day of the surgery with a sip of water. You will be told what you need to do for home care while you are recovering, when you can resume normal daily activities, and when to schedule checkup office appointments. If you will need pain pills after the surgery, you will be given a prescription to fill before the operation.
Types of Thyroid Surgery
- Removal of one lobe is called a Lobectomy. When the remaining half of the gland is able to perform all or some of its functions, your doctor may decide that thyroid supplements are not required.
- Remove of one lobe and the isthmus is called a Lobectomy with Isthmusectomy. This form of surgery is done to ensure that all questionable tissue is removed.
- Removal of one entire lobe, the isthmus, and the majority of the other lobe is called a Subtotal Thyroidectomy. This is a common procedure to remove either non-aggressive small cancer tissues or goiters.
- Removal of the entire thyroid gland and the isthmus is called a Total Thyroidectomy. This type of surgery is the most preferred operation to remove all types of thyroid cancers.
Once you are sedated, your surgeon will make a horizontal 2 to 5-inch incision at the central base of your throat above the collarbone. A tube will be placed in the incision for drainage during the operation. Your surgeon will then use surgical instruments to remove the targeted parts or the entire thyroid gland and isthmus. During the operation, your surgeon will ensure that the parathyroid artery and vein are able to retain their blood supply. Once of the targeted gland and tissue is removed, the incision will be closed with stitches. The resulting scar will fade over time and be barely noticeable. The drainage tube may need to remain in place for several hours or an entire day.
You will be moved to a recovery room where you will slowly regain consciousness. It is normal to have the feeling of a sore throat following surgery, but it will go away within a few days. You will be given something light to eat and drink. If you are scheduled to stay in the hospital, you will be moved to your room. If you will be going home, the hospital staff will arrange for your discharge. Before leaving the hospital, the medical staff will want to ensure that you are able to swallow liquids.