Total thyroidectomy

There are two reasons to have a thyroid operation. You have a lump in your neck that your doctor suspects may be malignant. Or an enlarged thyroid (goitre) is causing you discomfort.

It’s called a total thyroidectomy when the entire thyroid gland is removed and a thyroid lobectomy if half of it is removed. Surgeons remove part of the thyroid to check if there is cancer or not.

The thyroid gland sits in your neck below the Adam’s Apple. It makes hormones and secretes them into your blood stream.

The hormones, called thyroxine and triiodothyronine, are important because they’re needed to ensure your body cells and tissues work normally.

The main reasons for an ENT surgeon to recommend removal of your thyroid are:

  • Cancer is or might be present
  • Your thyroid is enlarged and compressing your windpipe (trachea) or gullet (oesophagus)
  • Your thyroid either doesn’t produce enough thyroxine (hypothyroidism) or produces too much (hyperthyroidism)

Our Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) surgeons at Circle have decades of experience diagnosing and treating thyroid cases.

When you arrive at Circle, our nursing staff will review your history and answer any queries about medicines you’re taking.

You may be advised to take further thyroid tests or other tests such as a flexible nasendoscopy performed by your surgeon. A nasendoscope is a small tube with a camera on the end. It is passed through your nose to allow the surgeon to look at your vocal cords.

Your ENT consultant can refer you to another hospital if an operation is required.

You will be seen by nursing staff and admitted to the hospital. Your surgeon and anaesthetist will come and see you to make sure you’re okay with general anaesthetic.

The surgeon will tie off the arteries feeding the glands and, avoiding the nerves to the voice box, will remove the thyroid. Dissolvable stitches are used, which drop out later.

After the operation, you will wake up with a scar on your neck. Sometimes you might have a drainage tube to take away extra fluid, but usually not. You may have some bruising that fades in a couple of weeks.

After an overnight stay, any drains will be taken out and you will be sent home to rest quietly for two weeks. You may be able to go back to work earlier if you have a desk job.

The main risk is to the vocal cord behind the thyroid, which our surgeons take care of during the operation. Your voice may sound weak. This is normally temporary and can be fixed surgically.

There is also a rare risk of bleeding, which would mean a return to theatre.

You will spend several hours in recovery before being discharged. You are likely to have a sore throat for a few days and stiff neck muscles. You can go back to work after about a week but should avoid anything strenuous.

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0118 911 4887

Circle Reading Hospital, 100 Drake Way, Reading, RG2 0NE


Overall rating 24th October 2019