Surgery for diseases of the thyroid gland usually involves removing either half of the gland (hemithyroidectomy) or the entire gland (total thyroidectomy). Common reasons for removing the entire thyroid includes an enlarged gland (goitre), proven thyroid cancer and an overactive thyroid gland that cannot be controlled with medications. A hemithyroidectomy is performed if a nodule is large, hyperfunctioning or if there is concern it may be cancerous.
What to expect
Thyroid surgery is performed in hospital under general anaesthesia. The incision is across the lower part of the neck. Local anaesthetic medications are injected into the wound at the end of the operation, so patients usually wake up feeling comfortable. Patients can expect to spend one or two nights in hospital. If the whole gland is removed, they will have blood tests in the evening after surgery and the following morning to check calcium levels, and will commence thyroid supplements. This is usually unnecessary if only half the gland is removed.
After thyroid surgery, patients can usually eat and drink, talk and walk around after a few hours, once the anaesthetic has fully worn off. Patients can resume driving when they can turn their head quickly with absolutely no discomfort, usually about two weeks, and strenuous exercise after about four weeks.