Why would thyroid surgery be needed?
The thyroid is responsible for producing hormones which control the rate of metabolism and heart rate. Thyroid surgery is done as a treatment for thyroid cancer, swelling or enlargement of the thyroid causing compression of the surrounding structures or an overactive gland causing Hyperthyroidism.
How is thyroid surgery done?
Thyroid surgery may be done by removing the entire thyroid (thyroidectomy) or by removing one of the two lobes of the thyroid (known as a lobectomy). This surgery is usually done using open or minimally invasive laparoscopic techniques.
Under general anaesthesia, Dr Aikman will make an incision of +/- 3cm above the collar bone in the midline of the neck. He will then dissect down to the thyroid gland. Dissection will be continued to mobilize the involved lobe from the surrounding structures. The lobe will then be removed. After ensuring there is no more bleeding the wound will be closed in different layers. A small drain may be left in the wound depending on the extent of dissection.
Under general anaesthesia, Dr Aikman will again make a midline incision in the neck and remove the entire thyroid. The same procedure is followed as for a lobectomy, only this time this is done on both sides.
In both cases, if cancer is suspected the lymph nodes may also be removed during this surgery to prevent spreading of cancer to the rest of the body. The removed thyroid tissue will then be tested after surgery for cancer cells.
What will recovery entail?
If you are feeling well the day after the operation, the drain will be removed if one was placed and you will be discharged. After thyroid surgery the following symptoms are common and should not be concerning:
- Pain unresponsive to analgesia in the neck and throat.
- Hoarse voice.
- Red skin around your incision.
If Dr Aikman is not happy with your recovery on day one, you may need to stay in the hospital for a day or two after surgery to ensure your incision is healing as it should before you go home.
Symptoms to look out for include swelling and bleeding around the incision, "pins and needles" of fingers, numbness of skin around your mouth and excessive pain as these are not normal and may require additional intervention.
You should be able to return to your normal lifestyle in a few days, but you should take caution when doing physical activities. After 2 weeks, Dr Aikman will check your post-surgery incision and give you instructions for care in the following few weeks.