Thyroid is a small gland that is located in the lower front part of the neck below the voice box. The thyroid gland produces hormones that help to regulate metabolism. It is also instrumental in helping the body organs to function properly and also helps to conserve body heat. Thyroid surgery is required when the thyroid gland malfunctions and produces excess hormones. This may result in swelling and growth of cyst or nodules and other problems. The main symptoms of thyroid disorder are increase in body weight, hair loss, changes in mood, constipation, blurred vision, muscle weakness, brittleness of the nails, dry skin, constipation, feeling of numbness and even a swollen neck.
The most common reason why thyroid surgery is carried out is the presence of nodules or tumors on the thyroid gland. Nodules can be cancerous or precancerous and lead to a lot of complications. Thyroid surgery can cure a condition called hyperthyroidism. This condition is caused when benign nodules stimulate the thyroid to produce more hormones than is actually necessary. Graves’ disease is a peculiar condition where the body misidentifies the thyroid gland as a foreign body and attacks it. The antibodies that attack the thyroid gland cause the production of excess of thyroid hormones and this leads to hyperthyroidism. Thyroid surgery can also treat goiter, which is a condition that results in the swelling or enlargement of the thyroid gland.
Thyroid surgery is generally done under general anesthesia. Anesthesia is given in the form of liquid injection or gas through a mask and then a breathing tube is placed in the trachea to help the patient breathe. Several monitors are also placed on the body of the patient to ensure that the heart rate, blood pressure and blood oxygen remains at optimum levels throughout the procedure.
There are a different types of thyroid surgery. Lobectomy is done when a nodule, inflammation or swelling affects only half of the thyroid gland and only one of the lobes has to be removed. The thyroid gland is removed but some portion of thyroid tissues are left in subtotal thyroidectomy. Some functions of the thyroid are thus preserved. When nodules, inflammation or swelling affects the entire thyroid gland, total thyroidectomy is done to remove the thyroid gland and the thyroid tissues.
A surgeon makes a single incision or a number of incisions in the neck or elsewhere to remove part or the whole of the thyroid gland. In conventional thyroidectomy, a single incision is made in the center of the neck to access the thyroid gland directly. Small incisions are made in the neck and surgical instruments are inserted through them in case of endoscopic thyroidectomy. A camera is also inserted that guides the surgeon. Robotic thyroidectomy requires incisions to be made in the chest and armpit or high up in the neck. This approach prevents a person from having an incision in the center of his/her neck.
A person suffering from the side-effects of a malfunctioning thyroid gland is eligible for treatment. A person suffering from thyroid cancer is also eligible for this treatment. Thyroid surgery helps to correct hyperthyroidism due to an overactive thyroid gland and also to treat noncancerous enlargement of the thyroid or goiter. People suffering from such conditions are eligible for treatment.
A person who does not have a malfunctioning thyroid gland is not suitable for this treatment. Someone suffering from hypothyroidism is also not qualified to undergo this treatment. As it is a surgical procedure, prior consultation with the doctor is required. A physically unfit person should not undergo this surgery.
Thyroid surgery is generally a safe procedure. However some side-effects are associated with this surgery. The complications may include infection, bleeding and airways can get obstructed due to the bleeding. In rare cases, one of the parathyroid glands may get affected and the person will suffer from hypothyroidism. In some other cases, a person may suffer from permanent hoarse or weak voice due to damage to the nerves.
The patient’s throat is bound to feel sore till a few days after the surgery. A doctor may prescribe some over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen to deal with it. A person may develop hypothyroidism after the surgery. In this case, the hormone levels are brought under control with some form of levothyroxine. A person does not require much time to resume normal activities. However, the patient should wait for at least 10 days before engaging in strenuous activities.
Thyroid surgery normally does not produce any serious side-effect and allows the person to resume normal activities within a day. A person may return home on the day of the surgery itself or may be recommended to stay back for a night by the doctor. A person may suffer from pain in the throat for a few days. It is resolved easily by taking some medications.
A thyroid surgery generally costs around Rs 60000 – Rs 65000 in India.
The results of the surgery depend on how much of the thyroid gland has been removed. If part of the thyroid gland is removed, the remaining part of the gland takes over the functions of the gland. If the entire thyroid gland is removed, a person can develop hypothyroidism. In this case, a person will have to take medication containing synthetic thyroid hormone. So it will be a life-long process.