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Reasons for Procedure

All or part of the thyroid gland may be surgically removed for any of the following reasons:

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

Your doctor may do the following:
Leading up to your procedure:
  • Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure.
  • Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before the procedure.
  • Arrange for transportation to and from the hospital.


General anesthesia will be used. You will be asleep.

Description of Procedure

An incision will be made in the front of the neck. Bleeding vessels will be clamped and tied off. All or part of the thyroid gland will be cut away from other tissues in the neck. Care will be taken to avoid injury to other nearby glands and nerves. Bleeding is controlled with special tools that compress and seal the ends of the vessels. The incision will be closed. The edges of skin will be stitched together. A drain will often be left in overnight. It will help drain any extra fluids.
The thyroid may be removed to treat thyroid cancer. In this case, lymph nodes in the area may also be removed. This will test if the cancer has spread.
In some cases, the doctor may be able to remove the thyroid using endoscopic surgery. This involves making small incisions, instead of a large incision in the neck. This is becoming more common.

How Long Will It Take?

About 2-4 hours

How Much Will It Hurt?

Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.

Average Hospital Stay

The usual length of stay is one day. Your doctor may choose to keep you longer if complications arise.

Post-procedure Care

At the Hospital
  • There will be discomfort in your neck for several days. The pain can be treated with medication.
  • In some cases, you may have a hoarse voice for a few days.
  • Depending on how much of the thyroid is removed, you may need to take replacement thyroid hormone.
  • In some cases of thyroid cancer, you may need radioactive iodine treatments. This is called remnant ablation.
At Home
When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
  • Keep the incision clean and dry.
  • Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.
  • Do not get the incision wet until your doctor allows. If it does get wet, dry it right away.
  • Do not apply make-up, lotion, or cream to the incision area.
  • Perform neck exercises as instructed by your doctor.
  • Take all medications as prescribed by your doctor.
  • Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions.


The American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery

National Cancer Institute



Canadian Cancer Society

Canadian Society of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery



Q & A: Thyroidectomy. American Thyroid Association website. Available at: Accessed August 7, 2013.

Thyroidectomy. Cedars-Sinai website. Available at: Accessed August 7, 2013.

Thyroidectomy. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: Updated April 12, 2006. Accessed August 7, 2013.


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