The purpose of thyroid surgery is to remove all or part of the thyroid gland to treat thyroid nodules, hyperthyroidism or thyroid cancer, according to WebMD. It may also be performed to take a tissue sample to check for cancer cells.
A doctor may recommend thyroid surgery if a large, benign nodule is causing problems with breathing or swallowing, a cystic nodule returns after being drained, cancer is suspected or known to be present, or the patient has hyperthyroidism that does not respond to other treatments, as stated by WebMD.
While a total thyroidectomy involves the removal of both lobes of the thyroid gland along with surrounding lymph nodes, a thyroid lobectomy involves the removal of one lobe, states WebMD. The latter procedure may also involve an isthmectomy, the removal of the thin band of tissue connecting the lobes. In a subtotal thyroidectomy used for patients with Grave's disease, one lobe, the connecting tissue and part of the other lobe are removed.
Complications associated with these procedures include vocal changes and hypoparathyroidism, and those who undergo a total thyroidectomy develop hypothyroidism, according to WebMD. Patients who undergo thyroid surgery for cancer often receive a radioactive iodine treatment to kill the remaining cancer cells, but successful treatment depends on the type of cancer and whether it has metastasized to other areas of the body.