The thyroid is a gland located in the neck that produces thyroid hormones.
When the thyroid becomes enlarged it is known as a goitre. A goitre can cause a change in the appearance of the neck and can cause symptoms by pressing on nearby structures including the windpipe and food pipe. So called “compressive symptoms” include breathing discomfort and swallowing difficulty. If these symptoms are significantly impacting on quality of life, removal of all or part of the thyroid gland may be indicated. The operation to remove all of the thyroid gland is known as a total thyroidectomy. Removing half the thyroid gland is called a hemithyroidectomy/thyroid lobectomy.
The thyroid gland can also develop nodules which are felt as a lump/lumps. Thyroid nodules are common and can be assessed using an ultrasound scan. Occasionally a needle biopsy (FNA) is indicated to further characterise the type of thyroid nodule. Thyroid nodules can be caused by benign growths or by thyroid cancer. Management usually depends on the result of the needle biopsy. If the needle biopsy is inconclusive surgery to remove the part of the thyroid containing the nodule can be performed (diagnostic hemithyroidectomy).
Operations on the thyroid gland require an overnight stay in hospital. They are performed under general anaesthetic and a drain is commonly placed at the end of the operation. The drain is usually removed the morning following surgery allowing discharge home.