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Subtotal Thyroidectomy: Risks and Benefits to Your Health

Subtotal Thyroidectomy: Risks and Benefits to Your Health

What is a Subtotal Thyroidectomy?

A subtotal thyroidectomy is the surgical process of removing the most grievously affected section of a thyroid gland. However, it aims to leave behind a portion of the least affected section. Doctors recommend this procedure for patients with Graves’ Disease, an autoimmune disease characterized by an overactive thyroid. It is also an option for some benign thyroid complications, such as colloid nodule and multinodular nontoxic goiter.

This approach needs intensive care during the surgical process to avoid damage to the nerves. After the operation, patients will have between 1g to 8g of thyroid left behind. The purpose of performing a subtotal thyroidectomy is to enable normal thyroid gland function. It also includes lessening the risk of overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) recurrence.

Why Would I Need This Procedure?

Doctors may recommend a subtotal thyroidectomy rather than a total thyroidectomy so that the patient has a bit of their thyroid left, and to avoid the risk of more complications.

  • As with total thyroidectomy, subtotal thyroidectomy has low chances of weakening the vocal cords and producing low-level parathyroid hormones.
  • The effectiveness of subtotal thyroidectomy is similar to that of total thyroidectomy.
  • It also controls thyroid hyperfunction symptoms after the operation.
  • The incidence of having transient hypercalcemia (too much calcium in the blood) is lower than in total thyroidectomy patients.
  • It is recommended for patients to avoid permanent postoperative drug prescriptions.

Benefits of a Subtotal Thyroidectomy

Here are some benefits of subtotal thyroidectomy for your health:

  • In a subtotal thyroidectomy, there is a remnant of the thyroid gland in place. This remnant may be able to function at the level of an entire thyroid gland to produce adequate hormones for the body.
  • Due to the thyroid gland remnant, the need for medications for thyroid hormone production decreases. In some cases, patients do not need to undergo thyroid therapy at all. However, prescribed post-treatments depend on the condition of the patient.
  • The occurrence of permanent postoperative hypoparathyroidism is 0.9%.

Hypothyroidism: Signs and Symptoms for Adults, Teens, and Infants

Risks and Complications

There are advantages that a subtotal thyroidectomy offers to patients, but risks and complications, including relapses are still possible.

  • The risk of recurrence of goiter is higher in a subtotal thyroidectomy than in a total thyroidectomy.
  • The certainty of having a normally functioning thyroid gland is hard to predict.
  • It is possible to leave a few traces of thyroid cancers that may go undetected.
  • There is a risk of developing hypothyroidism. The probability depends on the size of thyroid tissue remnant and thyroid antibody prescriptions. It may occur if the size of the thyroid gland left is not sufficient enough to function as the entire thyroid gland.
  • There is a risk of having low calcium levels in the blood (hypocalcemia). This risk is lower in a total thyroidectomy.
  • There is a probability of other complications like hypoparathyroidism, euthyroid state, and hyperthyroidism.

Key Takeaway

One of the processes of treating thyroid hyperfunction complications is subtotal thyroidectomy. It aims to remove the most affected part of the thyroid gland, and leave a small section of the least affected part. The size of the remnant thyroid tissue gland will depend on the condition of the patient. This surgery is widely accepted as a treatment for Graves’ Disease and some thyroid complications. However, there are still risks and complications associated with the surgery.

Learn more about Medical Procedures and Surgeries here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


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Accessed April 13, 2021

Complications of thyroidectomy at a tertiary health institution in Nigeria, https://www.ssajm.org/article.asp?issn=2384-5147;year=2019;volume=6;issue=1;spage=1;epage=9;aulast=Samuel

Accessed April 13, 2021

Hypocalcemia after thyroidectomy, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1524486/

Accessed April 13, 2021

Thyroid Nodules and Cancer, https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/nursing-and-health-professions/subtotal-thyroidectomy

Accessed April 13, 2021

Thyroidectomy, https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/thyroidectomy/about/pac-20385195

Accessed April 13, 2021

Total or near-total thyroidectomy versus subtotal thyroidectomy for multinodular non-toxic goitre in adults, https://www.cochrane.org/CD010370/ENDOC_total-or-near-total-thyroidectomy-versus-subtotal-thyroidectomy-multinodular-non-toxic-goitre-adults

Accessed April 13, 2021

Safety and Effectiveness of Total Thyroidectomy and Its Comparison with Subtotal Thyroidectomy and Other Thyroid Surgeries: A Systematic Review, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4783568/

Accessed April 13, 2021

Subtotal thyroidectomy: a reliable method to achieve euthyroidism in Graves’ disease. Prognostic factors, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17006611/

Accessed April 13, 2021

Hypercalcemia, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypercalcemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355523

Accessed May 23, 2021

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Written by Shienna Santelices Updated May 23
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel