Thyroid surgery

Last updated: October 28, 2020

Summarytoggle arrow icon

Thyroid surgery is a procedure commonly performed to treat benign and malignant thyroid disorders. Total thyroidectomy entails the removal of the entire thyroid gland and is indicated in the management of thyroid cancer or benign thyroid conditions that affect the entire gland (e.g., Graves disease, multinodular goiter). A small cuff of tissue adjacent to the tracheoesophageal groove is spared in near-total and subtotal thyroidectomy in order to protect the parathyroid glands and the adjacent nerves. Lobectomy (removal of a single lobe) or hemithyroidectomy (removal of a single lobe with the isthmus) is performed for unilateral benign thyroid disorders (e.g., toxic adenoma, recurrent thyroid cysts) and for small, low-risk differentiated thyroid cancers. Postoperative complications include hematoma formation, hypoparathyroidism, nerve palsy (recurrent/superior laryngeal nerve), and hypothyroidism. The greater the extent of resection, the greater the risk of complications. However, the most extensive resections (total thyroidectomy) are associated with the lowest rates of recurrent disease.

Thyroid gland anatomytoggle arrow icon

Preparationtoggle arrow icon


Procedure/applicationtoggle arrow icon

Procedure Description Indication

Total thyroidectomy

Near-total thyroidectomy

  • A small cuff of thyroid tissue is left behind
Subtotal thyroidectomy
  • A larger cuff of thyroid tissue is left behind

Thyroid lobectomy

  • Removal of the affected thyroid lobe
  • The affected lobe with the isthmus is removed.


Complicationstoggle arrow icon

Unilateral RLN palsy Bilateral RLN palsy
Clinical features


We list the most important complications. The selection is not exhaustive.

Referencestoggle arrow icon

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