What is the Thyroid?
The thyroid is a large gland that lies inside an individual’s neck and just below the cartilage known as the Adam’s apple. Its main purpose is to produce certain hormones within the body.
Though hormone production is important, there are conditions in which the thyroid has become a liability and keeping it fully intact, or simply keeping it at all, is a far greater health risk than removing it from the body.
The thyroid is in a sensitive location inside the neck at the center of the lower throat area. Any complications, whether major or minor, can create significant issues in breathing, swallowing and the sensation of having the throat closed off or obstructed.
One of the more serious problems to affect the thyroid is cancer. This will usually result in a thyroidectomy, total thyroid removal, being performed by an experienced surgeon.
Other issues that could lead to a full thyroidectomy, or a partial thyroid surgery such as a unilateral lobectomy (only removing the damaged half of the thyroid), are hyperthyroidism, a goiter, or severe swelling and enlarging of the thyroid causing an obstruction in breathing and/or swallowing.
In some individuals, non-cancerous tumors can form on or around the thyroid. It is also quite common for benign cysts to form. Though typical looking, these tumors and cysts can easily create the same issues as cancerous growths, resulting in complete or partial removal of the thyroid.
Thyroid Removal Surgery
Before surgery, the surgeon will probably suggest that the patient maintain a strict diet and limit fluid consumption prior to the operation. Prescription medications, such as the hormone Synthroid, may be required to reduce the risk of complications during or after the procedure.
The surgeon may also ask the individual to take aspirin, anti-inflammatory medication, or even Plaxil in some cases. Hormones supplements can help reduce the risk of the patient developing hypothyroidism as a result in the newly absent thyroid.
As for the surgery itself, the surgeon will first locate the thyroid, then make an incision of 2-4 inches directly on top of the skin above the thyroid. At this point, a small tube may be inserted in order to help drain excessive fluid or blood build up during the procedure. The tube may stay in place for up to two days after surgery to continue the draining of fluids, though this step is optional.
Once the thyroid has been exposed, the surgeon will pull it up to view and, after inspection, will make one of three decisions: The thyroid will either be completely removed for a thyroidectomy, half removed for a lobectomy, or partial tissue will be removed from the two lobes of the thyroid for a procedure called an “isthmectomy”.
Thyroid surgery is a delicate operation because a mistake could lead to a nerve ending, vocal chords or larynx being cut.
It is common for patients having recently had a complete or partial thyroidectomy to experience changes in their body. Proper hormone levels are crucial to a person’s well-being, both mentally and emotionally. Even a slight change can result in significant changes. Any changes should be discussed with the surgeon as soon as they are noticed. A prescription for hormone replacement might require a different dosage to offset differences in the patient’s well-being.
Another common side effect after thyroid surgery is weight loss or increase in the patient. Weight loss is more typical, though each patient’s situation is different and should be discussed with the doctor or surgeon.