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If I need thyroid surgery, how extensive will it be?

The extent of thyroid surgery performed depends on the specific thyroid condition being treated. The goal of the surgeon is to treat the condition to the best extent possible while maintaining the highest quality of life possible. Surgery should only be recommended if the condition cannot be adequately treated medically, i.e., if cancer is found or suspected, if the airway is obstructed, or if the patient cannot tolerate medication.

Depending on the specific condition, a surgeon may recommend removing only one lobe of the thyroid, or "wing" of the butterfly-shaped gland (this procedure is called a lobectomy). Removing almost the entire thyroid is called a subtotal thyroidectomy, and removing the entire thyroid is called a total thyroidectomy. Sometimes the extent of surgery must be determined by the surgeon during surgery when the features of the thyroid disease can be seen directly.

More extensive surgery is associated with higher complication rates, and thus many surgeons who are inexperienced in thyroid surgery choose to remove less thyroid tissue in order to decrease the risk of complication.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.