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Thyroid and parathyroid surgery

Surgical treatment for thyroid and parathyroid conditions

Thyroid surgery (thyroidectomy) is performed to remove part or all of the thyroid gland. Parathyroid (parathyroidectomy) surgery is performed to remove one or nearly all of your parathyroid glands.

Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that sits at the base of your neck. It controls your growth and metabolism.

The parathyroids are a set of four glands behind your thyroid gland. The parathyroid glands release a hormone called PTH that controls calcium levels in your blood. Calcium is involved in bone health, muscle function and nerve function.

You may need surgery on these glands to balance your hormone levels or remove cancerous and noncancerous tumors. 

Schedule a consultation with an expert surgeon near you. 

Learn more

When to consider surgery

Thyroid surgery can treat:

  • goiter: an enlarged thyroid
  • hyperthyroidism: an overactive thyroid or overactive thyroid nodule
  • hypothyroidism: an underactive thyroid
  • thyroid cancer
  • thyroid nodules: a lump in the thyroid
  • thyroiditis: inflammation of the thyroid gland

Parathyroid surgery can treat:

  • hyperparathyroidism: overactive parathyroid glands
  • parathyroid cancer

Who performs your surgery?

A board-certified endocrine surgeon will perform your procedure with support from a team of experts dedicated to getting you back to the people who count on you.

Your care team may include:

  • a radiologist
  • a nurse navigator
  • an anesthesiologist
  • a pharmacist
  • an oncologist
  • a physician assistant

How long does surgery take?

Thyroid surgery takes one to two hours.

Parathyroid surgery takes anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes.

The amount of time you spend in the hospital will depend on the type of surgery you have and whether you have someone at home who can monitor you the first night. Most people can go home the same day.

Surgery risks

Your provider won’t recommend thyroid or parathyroid surgery unless the benefits outweigh the potential risks, which include:

  • bleeding
  • infection
  • possible damage to or removal of the parathyroid glands, leading to low blood calcium levels after surgery
  • obstruction of the airway (due to bleeding)
  • nerve damage that can result in permanent hoarseness or a weak voice

Recovering from surgery

You may experience neck pain, a sore throat and coughing after thyroid or parathyroid surgery. The incision site will be sore for a few days, but you can resume regular, non-strenuous activities when you go home.

Avoid strenuous activities for 10 days to two weeks. The scar from your thyroidectomy or parathyroidectomy will take about a year to fade. Sunscreen helps keep the scar from becoming noticeable.

If you have a complete thyroidectomy, you will need thyroid hormone therapy for the rest of your life. If only part of your thyroid is removed, you may not need thyroid hormone therapy. You won’t need hormone treatment after parathyroid surgery. 

Health insurance and costs

Contact your health insurance provider about medical coverage and get a price estimate before scheduling thyroid or parathyroid surgery.

We’ll help you find the best payment and insurance options to fit your needs. You will pay any deductible amounts and charges your policy doesn’t cover. 

Reviewed by: Mark S. Sneider, MD

First published: 8/2/2022
Last reviewed: 8/2/2022