Thyroid surgery can be necessary for various thyroid conditions. Surgical removal of all or part of your thyroid gland may be necessary for thyroid cancer, benign cysts, goiters (thyroid enlargement), nodules and overactive thyroid glands.

Thyroid problems that may require surgery include:

  • Goiter – enlargement of the thyroid
  • Hyperthyroidism – thyroid makes too much hormones
  • Hypothyroidism – thyroid doesn’t make enough hormones
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Thyroid nodules – lumps in the thyroid gland
  • Thyroiditis – swelling of the thyroid

Parathyroid problems that may require surgery include:

  • Hyperparathyroidism – parathyroid makes too much hormone
  • Hypoparathyroidism – parathyroid doesn’t make enough parathyroid hormone, resulting in too little calcium and too much phosphorous
  • Parathyroid cancer

A benign tumor on a thyroid or parathyroid gland may make either gland overactive. Too much hormone production can also come from enlarged glands. Very rarely, the cause is cancer. Injury to the glands, endocrine disorders or genetic conditions can be the cause of hypothyroidism and hypoparathyroidism.

Sources: Dept. of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health; NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases


Symptoms of thyroid and parathyroid disorder can vary from person to person and may include:

  • Bowel movement irregularities
  • Change in voice
  • Cough
  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • Dry skin
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Goiter or enlarged thyroid
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Mood swings
  • Neck swelling
  • Pressure sensation
  • Sleeping issues
  • Thinning hair
  • Weight gain or loss

To evaluate thyroid-related disorders, your doctor will discuss your symptoms, review blood tests and imaging and perform a thorough head and neck examination, including evaluation of your vocal cords. If a nodule is present, a biopsy is usually recommended (depending on size and nodule characteristics). Further evaluation of voice-related issues may also be recommended.


Depending on the specific condition, various treatments may be used, including medicines, radioiodine therapy or thyroid surgery. A thyroidectomy or partial thyroidectomy may be necessary, especially in the case of nodules.

During your treatment

Surgery is performed under a general anesthetic. The gland is removed through an incision in the neck. The surgery usually lasts two to four hours depending on the extent of surgery, and intraoperative nerve monitoring is frequently utilized. Some patients may be eligible to have their surgery performed on an outpatient basis or with an overnight stay.

After your treatment

During recovery, it is typical to expect a sore throat and to possibly experience mild irregularity in swallowing (dysphagia), which is usually temporary. It takes about five to seven days to recover from the procedure. Showering is allowed after 24 hours, provided the surgical area is protected from getting wet. Strenuous activity and heavy lifting are to be avoided until recovery is complete. There are no eating, drinking or voice-use restrictions.

Why Choose Ohio State

The Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center has been successfully evaluating and treating patients with thyroid and parathyroid-related disorders for decades. Many of our patients are referred to us by local ENTs due to our outstanding reputation. We are recognized by U.S.News & World Report one of the nation’s best hospitals for care of the ear, nose and throat.

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