A total thyroidectomy, as the name implies, is a procedure to remove your entire thyroid gland. Since the gland plays a significant role in regulating your metabolism, you’ll have to make some lifestyle changes once the gland is removed, but most people manage just fine. Below, we’re going to explain what happens during a total thyroidectomy, why you may need one, and what life is like after the operation.
The Need For A Total Thyroidectomy
There are a number of reasons why someone may need to undergo a total thyroidectomy, including:
- A large, multinodular goiter
- Excessive thyroid compression
- Thyroid cancer
- Thyroid enlargement
Because a number of different reasons can contribute to the need for a total thyroidectomy, the goals of the operation can vary from person to person. For one patient, the goal of surgery may be to relieve compression or correct hyperthyroidism, while another patient may undergo the operation to become cancer free.
The operation is performed by placing the patient under general anesthesia. The patient is on their back and a horizontal incision is made on the lower neck. The surgeon navigates to the gland and carefully removes it from its internal connections. The gland is removed and the incision is then closed with sutures. Patients usually spend one night in the recovery center to ensure everything looks good before being discharged home. Strenuous activities should be avoided for at least a week following the operation.
Life After A Total Thyroidectomy
After a total thyroidectomy, you’ll have to make some adjustments in your daily life. For starters, you will need to take a thyroid supplement (thyroxine) for the rest of your life. Your endocrine surgeon will help determine your correct dosage. You’re also probably going to need to take calcium supplements, but this may not need to be a lifelong commitment. Many patients experience a temporary drop in calcium levels after a total thyroidectomy.
You may notice some mild symptoms after your operation. Some patients experience headaches or tiredness for a couple of weeks after surgery. However, if you experience any of the following symptoms, contact your thyroid surgeon. Symptoms that suggest a serious problem include a fever, swelling or discharge from the surgery site, pain that is not controlled by medication, tingling in the hands or face, or breathing problems.
For more information about a total thyroidectomy, or to talk to an endocrine surgeon, reach out to Dr. Koeplin’s office today.