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Thyroid Surgery

The thyroid gland is located in your neck. It is responsible for releasing a thyroid hormone into your body. This hormone helps maintain your energy levels and metabolism. A hyperactive thyroid gland can cause heart palpitations, sweating, irritability, decreased appetite, and weight loss. If your symptoms are not adequately controlled with medications, your primary care physician or endocrinologist will refer you to a surgeon for removal of your thyroid gland (thyroidectomy).​​​​​​​

A patient might find a thyroid mass by sensing a lump or mass in the neck, or the primary physician might discover an abnormality on physical exam called a nodule or goiter. Your surgeon will recommend removal of all or part of your thyroid gland (thyroidectomy) if he suspects the nodules may harbor cancer or if an enlarging goiter is currently or predicted to cause difficulties breathing or swallowing. ​Some thyroid findings do not require surgery, and your primary care physician can watch and monitor your thyroid.

woman touching neck
A patient might find a thyroid mass by sensing a lump or mass in the neck.

Parathyroidectomy

There are four parathyroid glands located behind the thyroid gland in your neck. These glands secrete parathyroid hormone which helps regulate the calcium level in your body. Calcium is an essential mineral that functions to maintain your bone strength, healthy teeth, muscle function, nerve function, normal clotting of the blood, and the regulation of hormones and enzymes. One or more of your parathyroid glands can become hyperactive and release an excess amount of parathyroid hormone into your bloodstream. The resulting abnormally high calcium level in your blood may cause low bone mineral density (called osteopenia or osteoporosis), bone fractures, kidney stones, abdominal pain, constipation, and mood changes such as depression. If you suffer from hyperactive parathyroid glands, known as hyperparathyroidism, your physician will refer you to a surgeon for removal of one or more of your parathyroid glands. After your surgery, your calcium levels will return to normal, and your symptoms will resolve.

Adrenalectomy

This type of surgical procedure involves removing one or both of your adrenal glands in the case of tumor growth. The doctor will advise adrenalectomy when any tumors or cysts grow on the adrenal glands, including benign tumors, malignant tumors, and metastatic tumors that spread from your body’s other organs. Your adrenal glands produce many hormones like sex hormones and cortisol, which are required by the body to perform daily functions. When an adrenal tumor develops on one or both of these glands, it can cause an increase or decrease in hormone production. Because of the serious implications of volatile hormone levels, a doctor must remove these glands.

When Is Surgery Necessary?

If the thyroid contains worrisome characteristics, your physician will recommend removal of the side of the gland with the concern (partial thyroidectomy). During surgery, a pathologist physician will check the removed portion of the thyroid gland for cancer. If the pathologist finds the mass to harbor cancer, your surgeon can remove the entire thyroid gland during that same operation.​​​​​​​

If your thyroid nodule proves to contain cancer by needle biopsy before surgery, your surgeon will perform a total thyroidectomy. It may also be necessary to remove some of the lymph nodes in the neck if there is evidence of lymph node involvement or if your tumor is large. Patients sometimes need radioactive iodine treatment following thyroidectomy depending on the size and degree of invasion of cancer.

 

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