What is the Thyroid Gland?
The thyroid gland is an organ located in the front of the neck, just below the Adam’s apple, and it plays a crucial role in regulating the body’s metabolism through its hormones. The thyroid gland is highly vascular, surrounded by numerous blood vessels. Just beneath it, there are several parathyroid glands responsible for regulating blood calcium levels with their hormones. The nerve that controls the functioning of the vocal cords also runs just beneath the thyroid gland.
What Are Thyroid Gland Disorders?
An abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland is referred to as “goiter.” Cysts and nodules can also form in the thyroid gland. While these cysts and nodules are often benign, they can sometimes become cancerous.
When is Surgery Necessary for Thyroid Gland Disorders?
The main thyroid gland disorders that may require surgery include suspicious cysts and nodules, thyroid gland enlargement associated with these nodules, thyroid gland cancers, or, rarely, thyroid gland disorders that cannot be controlled with medications.
After a physical examination of the thyroid gland, ultrasound imaging is generally required to assess changes in its structure. Blood tests are also necessary to determine thyroid hormone levels. Imaging tests such as scintigraphy, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be needed less frequently. When enlarged or suspicious cysts and nodules are detected in the thyroid gland, a needle biopsy is often performed to further evaluate the tissue.
What Are the Types of Thyroid Gland Surgery?
Thyroid gland surgery typically involves removing either half of the thyroid gland (thyroid lobectomy) or the entire gland (total thyroidectomy) based on the nature of the thyroid disorder. In cases of thyroid cancer, the extent of surgery may be expanded to include the removal of lymph nodes in the neck depending on the spread of cancer.
What Are the Characteristics of Thyroid Gland Surgery?
Thyroid gland surgery is performed under general anesthesia. There are three major complications associated with thyroid gland surgery:
- Bleeding: The blood vessels around the thyroid gland can sometimes bleed during surgery. To prevent this, a special device called the Harmonic Scalpel, which seals blood vessels, is often used during surgery.
- Injury to the Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve: This nerve controls the vocal cords. It’s crucial to be knowledgeable about the anatomy of the neck and to work meticulously to avoid damaging this nerve. Nerve-monitoring devices used during thyroid surgery help locate and protect this nerve, reducing the risk of injury.
- Hypocalcemia (Low Blood Calcium Levels): After surgery, there’s a risk of a decrease in blood calcium levels. To prevent this, it’s important to identify and protect the parathyroid glands during surgery. If necessary, calcium and vitamin D supplements may be prescribed after surgery.
What Should You Consider After Thyroid Gland Surgery?
After surgery, patients are typically discharged from the hospital on the second day. The patient’s blood calcium and thyroid hormone levels are closely monitored. Patients who have had their entire thyroid gland removed will need to take thyroid hormone medication, and the dosage will be adjusted accordingly. Additional treatments, such as radioactive iodine therapy, may be considered based on the pathological examination of the removed tissue.