Questions to Discuss with Your ENT Regarding Thyroid Surgery


physician shows to patient shape of thyroid gland with focus on hand.

The thyroid gland, a vital organ roughly two inches in size, plays a vital part in the production, storage, and release of hormones into the bloodstream that regulate a variety of biological processes. If your doctor has suggested thyroid surgery due to conditions such as glandular overactivity, enlargement, presence of cysts or nodules, or suspected cancer, it’s essential to engage in an informed discussion.

Below are key inquiries to guide your conversation with your healthcare provider:

What portion of my thyroid gland will be removed?

The extent of thyroidectomy varies depending on the underlying reason for surgery. In cases of glandular overactivity or significant enlargement impeding normal functions like swallowing or breathing, complete removal of the gland may be necessary. Conversely, if the issue is confined to one hemisphere, only the affected portion may be removed.

If cancer is suspected, the surgical approach may involve partial or total gland removal, with the latter option being more likely if cancer has spread beyond the thyroid.

Which surgical approach will be utilized?

Traditional thyroidectomy typically involves a neck incision. The size of the incision is determined by factors such as gland size and potential involvement of lymph nodes.

Alternatively, minimally invasive surgery offers the advantage of smaller incisions, particularly if lymph node involvement is not a concern.

Robot-assisted surgery, performed through an incision under the arm, is another option suitable for smaller thyroid glands. However, it may not be feasible if cancer has metastasized.

What is your surgical experience and complication rate?

Understanding your surgeon’s expertise and complication rate is crucial for informed decision-making. While the national average complication rate is around 1%, individual surgeon rates may vary. Seek a surgeon who performs a minimum of 25 thyroid surgeries annually and inquire about their specific complication rate.

What are the potential complications?

Although uncommon, thyroid surgeries carry inherent risks, including temporary voice alteration due to nerve involvement. Additionally, there’s a risk of bleeding and infection as with any surgical procedure.

How prominent will my scar be post-surgery?

Efforts are made to minimize scarring, with incisions often placed within natural creases or concealed areas. The visibility of scars varies based on individual healing and surgeon skill. Opting for a surgeon experienced in thyroid surgeries can optimize scar appearance.

For further queries or a second opinion on thyroid surgery, find an ENT specialist near you. The right specialist is committed to ensuring your understanding and comfort throughout the surgical process.

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