Surgery for hyperthyroidism is typically a safe and effective procedure. Recovery usually takes a few weeks. But depending on the procedure, you may need to take medication for the rest of your life.
Hyperthyroidism refers to an overactive thyroid. Though many treatments are available, surgery is also an option.
In this article, we explore when you may need surgery for hyperthyroidism and how surgeons carry out the procedure. We also discuss what you need to know about preparation, recovery, and outlook.
A doctor may recommend surgery for hyperthyroidism if other treatments, such as antithyroid medications, don’t control the symptoms.
You may also need surgery if you have any of the following:
However, a doctor may not be able to perform this surgery if you are unable to have general anesthesia.
Hyperthyroidism surgery removes part or all of the thyroid gland to reduce thyroxine levels and restore regular levels. It typically requires hospitalization and general anesthesia. Medical staff will monitor hormone levels through routine blood tests.
There are three main types of surgery for hyperthyroidism:
During a total thyroidectomy, the surgeon removes the complete thyroid gland. They may recommend this procedure if you have Graves’ disease, multinodular goiter, or thyroid cancer. You may also need it if other treatments, such as medications and radioactive iodine, are ineffective.
If you have this surgery, you will need to take levothyroxine every day for the rest of your life. This is an artificial thyroid hormone oral medication.
During a thyroid lobectomy, the surgeon removes only one lobe of the thyroid gland. They may recommend this procedure if you have a single nodule or tumor on one side of your thyroid gland.
During an isthmusectomy, the surgeon removes only the middle portion of your thyroid gland, called the isthmus. They may recommend this procedure if you have an enlarged goiter that affects only the isthmus but not the other lobes.
Surgery for hyperthyroidism can be a safe and effective treatment option. The risk of serious complications is less than 2%. However, like any surgical procedure, there are some risks involved. These include:
- damage to the vocal cords or other nearby structures in the neck
- low levels of calcium in your blood, called hypoparathyroidism
- persistent or recurring hyperthyroidism if not all of the thyroid tissue is removed during surgery
- difficulty breathing
It’s essential to discuss these risks with your doctor before undergoing surgery for hyperthyroidism. They can provide more information about potential adverse effects and how to manage them.
Preparing for hyperthyroidism surgery can be daunting, but you can take important steps to ensure the procedure goes as smoothly as possible.
First, discuss the risks and benefits of the procedure with your doctor. They can explain possible side effects and risks of the surgery.
Your doctor may also recommend specific tests or screenings before the procedure to ensure you are physically fit for surgery.
They will also work with you to get your thyroid hormones to a regular level before surgery. This reduces the risk of a thyroid storm, a sudden worsening of symptoms, during surgery.
You may also need someone to drive you home after your procedure and stay with you during your recovery. This person should also be aware of any medications or treatments you may need after leaving the hospital.
By following these steps, you can help ensure that your hyperthyroidism surgery goes as smoothly as possible and reduce any potential risks associated with the procedure.
Recovering from a hyperthyroidism surgery typically takes about 2–3 weeks.
After surgery, you may experience neck pain, a weak voice, difficulty swallowing, and a sore throat. Because of this and the anesthesia effects, you may be unable to eat solid foods before the next day.
Typically, you will go back home the day after surgery. You will need to refrain from activities and exercise that may strain your neck. You may also need to protect the incision area from getting wet or scratched.
Your doctor will likely recommend regular check-ups during recovery to monitor your progress and ensure your thyroid hormone levels are back in balance. They will also check your calcium levels and that you have no signs of infection.
Your outlook depends on which surgery you have. If you have a total thyroidectomy, you will need to take lifelong hormone replacement therapy to replace the hormones you are no longer producing.
You may also need regular monitoring of your hormone levels to minimize risks and side effects.
With proper care and monitoring after surgery, you can expect a good quality of life.
Here are some frequently asked questions about surgery for hypothyroidism.
How long is recovery from hyperthyroidism surgery?
Recovery typically lasts 2–3 weeks.
How much does surgery for hyperthyroidism cost?
Depending on your surgery and insurance plan, you may need to pay
Can people with hyperthyroidism undergo elective surgeries?
You may need surgery for hypothyroidism if other treatments have not worked, you have a large goiter, or you need immediate attention. The risk rate is minimal, but you may still experience bleeding, infection, and vocal cord damage.
You can typically expect a positive outcome from the surgery.