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University of South Florida

Life Without Your Thyroid

There are certain parts of our bodies we just cannot live without — you would think your thyroid is one of them. But, if faced with the need to remove your thyroid, rest assured that there is life ahead.

“In many cases thyroid surgery can be performed as an outpatient procedure only, without a hospital stay,”  said Dr. Matthew Mifsud of USF Health Otolaryngology (ENT). “For most patients, they will be able to return to essentially normal function after only about 1-2 weeks of recovery.”

The Thyroid at Work

The thyroid is a gland that performs the remarkable job of regulating our metabolism; the process of transforming food into energy is known as metabolism.

The hormones that regulate our metabolism are stored in the thyroid. When the thyroid malfunctions by not producing enough hormones we feel lethargic (hypothyroidism). When the thyroid overproduces hormones we feel energetic (hyperthyroidism).

When My Thyroid Stops Working

Certain conditions trigger the thyroid gland to become overactive, causing hyperthyroidism, which is the release of too much thyroid hormone. Hyperthyroidism causes the body to accelerate, producing rapid heartbeat, weight loss, excessive sweating and a myriad of other symptoms.

Depending on the condition and the severity, and after exhausting other forms of treatment, a thyroidectomy (a complete removal of the gland) may be recommended. The patient may have the option to have a portion of the thyroid removed, also referred to as a thyroid lobectomy.

Hormone replacement therapy may be necessary depending on the type of thyroidectomy.  “Thyroid function can be replaced by taking hormone replacement (levothyroxine) daily,” said Dr. Mifsud. “Most patients will take this at the same time daily, making sure to coordinate with other necessary medications. Your thyroid levels (TSH) will be checked at about 1 month from the time of surgery to ensure the correct dose of medication is being used and can be adjusted accordingly. Once patients are at the right dose they often require only intermittent checks with regular health checkups.”

Reasons for Thyroid Surgery

Thyroid cancer is the number one reason for thyroid removal. If nodules appear on the thyroid the doctor may recommend a partial thyroidectomy as a preventative measure to deter the likelihood of the nodule progressing into cancer.

Goiters are enlarged thyroids and are caused by the overproduction or underproduction of hormones, lack of iodine, or the production of nodules within the thyroid. When it comes to goiters, size matters.  Small goiters may not present symptoms, while larger goiters tend to cause physical discomfort.

Surgical intervention is considered when the following symptoms present themselves:
• Trouble or difficulty swallowing
• Difficulty breathing
• Tightness in the throat
• Coughing
• Hoarse voice
• Visible swelling at the base of the throat

Hashimoto’s and Graves’ disease are autoimmune disorders that compromise your thyroid gland. There is ongoing debate as to whether the conditions are genetic or caused by a virus or a bacterium. These disorders cause irregular hormonal fluctuations, and when they become too severe to treat the doctor may recommend a thyroidectomy.

The Surgery

“A custom tailored surgical plan is usually devised for each patient. This allows us to use small incisions and spare normal thyroid tissue when possible, for example in patients with a single sided thyroid mass,” said Dr. Mifsud. “On the other hand more extensive operations can be performed for large goiters or certain types of thyroid cancers.”

A thyroidectomy is a minimally invasive procedure. The majority of patients return home the same day of surgery and can generally return to their daily activities the next day.

To learn more about thyroid health visit My Relationship With My Thyroid.

For an appointment at USF Health Otolaryngology (ENT, call 813 974-4683.


Written by Ercilia Colón


USF Health Making Life Better




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