When is Surgery for Hyperthyroidism Recommended by Endocrinologists?

Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland becomes overactive and produces excessive amounts of thyroid hormones. As a result, the body’s normal metabolic functions are affected. Symptoms may include palpitations, irregular heart rates, rapid breathing, anxiety, sleeplessness, and weight loss.

In most cases, hyperthyroidism can be effectively treated using antithyroid drugs, beta-blockers or radioiodine. However, endocrinologists may decide in a small percentage of all hyperthyroidism cases that surgery is the best course of action.

Thyroidectomy is the surgical procedure where part or all of the thyroid gland is removed. This is done when a patient shows no response to medication or is unable to tolerate medications for one reason or another. Allergies to iodine or the patient’s preference not to take radioiodine are some of the common reasons why doctors may recommend thyroidectomy.

While thyroidectomy may be a common surgical procedure, doctors generally do not recommend it as the first option when treating hyperthyroidism due to the small risk of complications. This type of surgery is more commonly used when treating thyroid cancer, toxic thyroid nodules, or multinodular goiter. It is only applied to cases of hyperthyroidism when there are no reliable non-surgical alternatives.

In general, the risks of thyroidectomy complications are remote. These risks can further be minimized by choosing an experienced surgeon along with a trusted medical institution where the surgery will take place.

Changes in a patient’s voice, bleeding, infections and the need for lifelong thyroid hormone replacement are some of the documented risks that patients must agree to take when opting for thyroid surgery.

It’s also important to note that thyroidectomy does not always involve a complex procedure where all of the thyroid gland is removed. Depending on the patient’s condition, milder variants of the procedure may be used. These include hemithyroidectomy where only half of the gland is removed, and isthmectomy where only the band of tissue between the two lobes of the thyroid is taken away.