Total thyroidectomy (for thyrotoxicosis)
This page will give you information about a thyroidectomy. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.
What is the thyroid gland?
The thyroid gland is a structure in your neck that produces a hormone called thyroxine, which regulates your body's metabolism.
Your thyroid gland has become overactive and is producing too many hormones. This is called thyrotoxicosis and can lead to some distressing symptoms such as losing weight, tremors, sweatiness, being unable to cope with heat, difficulty sleeping and eye problems.
What are the benefits of surgery?
Your body will stop producing thyroid hormones so you should no longer have any distressing symptoms.
Are there any alternatives to a total thyroidectomy?
Medication, such as carbimazole or propylthiouracil, can be used to control thyroid activityand are often used to begin with.
Radioactive iodine can also be used for some people.
It is possible to remove only part of the gland so that you continue to produce some thyroid hormones and do not need to start taking thyroxine tablets. However, your thyroid gland may become overactive or underactive in the future, and you may need further treatment.
What does the operation involve?
The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic and usually takes 90 minutes to 2 hours.
Your surgeon will make a cut on your neck in the line of one of your skin creases.
Your surgeon will remove the thyroid gland.
How can I prepare myself for the operation?
If you smoke, stopping smoking now may reduce your risk of developing complications and will improve your long-term health.
Try to maintain a healthy weight. You have a higher risk of developing complications if you are overweight. Regular exercise should help to prepare you for the operation, help you to recover and improve your long-term health. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.
If you have not had the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine, you may be at an increased risk of serious illness related to COVID-19 while you recover. Speak to your doctor or healthcare team if you would like to have the vaccine.
What complications can happen?
Some complications can be serious and in rare cases can even cause death.
General complications of any operation
- infection of the surgical site (wound)
- allergic reaction to the equipment, materials or medication
- blood clot in your leg
- blood clot in your lung
- chest infection
Specific complications of this operation
- change in your voice
- breathing difficulties
- aspiration problems
- thyroid hormone levels in your blood will drop
- thyroid hormone levels in your blood may increase
- drop in calcium levels in your blood
Consequences of this procedure
- unsightly scarring of your skin
How soon will I recover?
You should be able to go home after 1 to 2 days.
You should be able to return to work and normal activities after about 2 weeks, depending on how much surgery you need and your type of work.
Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.
Most people make a full recovery and can return to normal activities.
The healthcare team will usually arrange for you to come back to the clinic within 4 weeks. Your surgeon will tell you the results and discuss with you any treatment or follow-up you need.
Thyrotoxicosis is a condition caused by an overactive thyroid gland. A thyroidectomy to remove the gland is one of a number of ways thyrotoxicosis can be treated.IMPORTANT INFORMATION
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Last reviewed: September 2022