A thyroid operation entails the removal of all or a portion of the thyroid gland, according to WebMD. It involves creating an incision and pulling apart muscles and other tissues to reveal the thyroid gland. Some doctors create tiny incisions, insert a small camera and use special instruments.
During a total thyroidectomy, a doctor removes the entire thyroid gland and nearby lymph nodes, states WebMD. If a patient has thyroid nodules in a single lobe, surgeons remove only the affected lobe by performing thyroid lobectomy. After the procedure, they examine the nodules to detect cancer cells.
A completion thyroidectomy is often necessary if cancer cells are present, notes WebMD. Patients with hyperthyroidism resulting from Graves' disease undergo subtotal thyroidectomy, which requires the removal of a complete lobe, a portion of the other lobe, and the band of tissue called isthmus.
Doctors perform thyroid surgery to treat hyperthyroidism, thyroid cancer or thyroid nodules, explains WebMD. Surgery is usually necessary to treat hyperthyroidism only when the thyroid gland is very large, thus causing difficulty in breathing or swallowing, or when thyroid cancer is likely present. Pregnant women and people who cannot take antithyroid medications also require surgery. Thyroid surgery is mostly safe, although possible risks include hoarseness and an altered voice if the voice-controlling nerves become damaged during the operation.