The thyroid and parathyroid are endocrine glands near the throat that secrete hormones throughout the body. The thyroid is bowtie-shaped and rests in front of the trachea (windpipe). It uses iodine from food to regulate the body’s energy. The parathyroid is a cluster of smaller glands located on the back of the thyroid that controls the amount of calcium in the blood.
There are three major reasons that the thyroid or parathyroid would need to be surgically removed: the glands are enlarged, they are over or under active, or there is a growth or tumor present. Depending on the condition of the glands, the whole thyroid or parathyroid may need to be removed or just a single lobe.
Thyroidectomies and parathyroidectomies are minor surgeries, which means that in general the patient can go home after the procedure. The operation is performed under general anesthesia. The doctor makes an incision in the midline of the lower neck, sometimes as small as 1 inch, sometimes bigger for an enlarged thyroid, and removes the thyroid and/or parathyroid. The incision is then stitched up with surgical tape or one long medical stitch.
Vomiting and fever is possible for 24 hours following the procedure if the patient is sensitive to anesthesia. Other side effects after surgery include neck pain and hoarse voice. These symptoms are temporary and are caused by irritation from the breathing tube that was installed in the trachea for surgery. Eating and drinking is possible after surgery. Total recovery time is about one week to 10 days.