Thyroid operations are advised for patients who have a variety of thyroid conditions, including both cancerous and benign (non-cancerous) thyroid nodules, large thyroid glands (goiters), and overactive thyroid glands. There are several thyroid operations that a surgeon may perform, including:
- excisional biopsy – removing a small part of the thyroid gland (rarely in use today);
- lobectomy – removing half of the thyroid gland (the most frequent way to remove a nodule); (Figure 2)
- total thyroidectomy, which removes all identifiable thyroid tissue. (Figure 2)
Courtesy of Andrew Hinson, MD
There are specific indications for each of these operations. The main risks of a thyroid operation involve possible damage to important structures near the thyroid, primarily the parathyroid glands (which regulate calcium levels) and the recurrent and external laryngeal nerves (which control the vocal cords).