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Thyroidectomy is the surgical removal of the thyroid gland or a portion of the thyroid gland. Most often performed by a Head and Neck or Endocrine surgeon, the surgery is recommended as a treatment for thyroid cancer or in cases where the thyroid gland is not functioning correctly. While there are some complications associated with thyroidectomy, the risks are minimal when an experienced surgeon performs the surgery.

Thyroid gland overview

The thyroid gland, an organ in the endocrine system, is located at the base of the neck. The gland is about 2 inches long and divided into two lobes that are separated by a small strip of thyroid tissue. The thyroid releases hormones that control all aspects of metabolism and many vital functions including breathing, heart rate, central nervous system, body temperature, weight, muscle strength, and more.

When is thyroidectomy necessary?

Dr. Furze most often performs thyroid removal on Orange County patients who suffer from the following medical conditions:

  • Thyroid cancer is the leading cause of thyroid removal. If cancer has been detected, the surgical removal of a portion or the entire thyroid may offer the best chance of survival.
  • Goiter is a noncancerous enlargement of the thyroid gland. The thyroid may need to be removed if goiter is causing pain, preventing normal breathing or swallowing, or is causing hyperthyroidism.
  • Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which an overactive thyroid results in an imbalance of thyroid hormone in the body, resulting in a wide variety of health problems. Removal of the thyroid may be required if the patient cannot take anti-thyroid drugs or undergo radioactive thyroid therapy.

How thyroidectomy is performed

Dr. Furze performs this surgery at HOAG Memorial Hospital in Newport Beach. The patient will be under general anesthesia during the entire procedure. Once the anesthesiologist has administered anesthesia and stabilized the patient, Dr. Furze makes a small incision across the center of the neck or several small incisions on the sides of the neck. His approach depends upon the patient’s anatomy and the amount of the thyroid being removed. He then carefully excises the thyroid gland, ensuring that he does not damage surrounding nerves and organs. Once the gland has been removed, he cauterizes blood vessels in the area to prevent bleeding. Finally, he repositions the layers of tissue and skin and carefully sutures the wound closed. While a scar will be visible after surgery, Dr. Furze takes great care to ensure it will be as small as possible.

Recovery and risks

Most patients remain in the hospital for 24 hours after surgery. If Dr. Furze placed a drain during surgery, he will remove it before the patient leaves the hospital. It’s normal to experience neck pain and have a hoarse voice after surgery. In most cases, these symptoms will resolve within two weeks. Patients can resume most normal activities about 10 days after surgery, but Dr. Furze may ask them to refrain from certain activities for a bit longer.

The most common complications include bleeding or infection, which are risks associated with any surgery. Rarely, patients experience a permanently weak or hoarse voice due to nerve damage that occurred during surgery. Another uncommon complication is damage to the parathyroid glands, causing hypoparathyroidism, which will require separate treatment. You can minimize these risks by choosing to have your surgery performed by an experienced Head and Neck surgeon like Dr. Furze.

Living without a thyroid gland

Given the importance of the thyroid gland, you may be wondering how it’s possible to survive once the gland has been removed. If only a small portion of the thyroid is removed, the gland may continue to function normally. When the entire gland is removed or the remaining portion fails to function adequately, patients can take daily thyroid medication to replace the body’s natural thyroid hormone. Fortunately, advances in modern medicine and pharmacology have led to the creation of thyroid medications that work extremely well, allowing patients to lead a healthy and normal life after thyroidectomy.

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"Dr. Furze is a wonderful, thorough, intelligent, conservative, approachable, doctor with an excellent bedside manner. I had a sinus procedure done last year with Dr. Furze and he did an excellent job."

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