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What is the thyroid gland?

The thyroid gland is one of the largest endocrine glands in the body. It makes hormones that affect all tissue and organ systems in the body. These hormones help the thyroid act as your body’s basic thermostat. The thyroid gland also controls how quickly the body burns energy, makes proteins, and the body’s sensitivity to other hormones.

What is a thyroidectomy?

A thyroidectomy, or thyroid surgery, is the removal of part or all of the thyroid gland. A thyroid lobectomy is the removal of one lobe. A total thyroidectomy is removal of the entire thyroid gland.

Thyroidectomy surgery picture

Why does my child need a thyroidectomy?

Your endocrinologist and/or surgeon may recommend a thyroidectomy because your child has:

  • a thyroid nodule
  • thyroid cancer
  • hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland) that cannot be well controlled by standard medications
  • goiter (an enlarged thyroid) that causes symptoms because of its size or location
  • genetic risk for developing thyroid cancer

What are the risks of a thyroidectomy?

Thyroidectomy is a common and safe operation. Rare complications from pediatric thyroid surgery include:

  • injury to the nerves that control the vocal cords. This can lead to hoarseness or trouble swallowing
  • injury to the parathyroid glands, which can cause low calcium levels that may be temporary or permanent
  • injury to the trachea (windpipe)
  • bleeding
  • infection

Your child’s surgeon can discuss more about the specific benefits and risks of a thyroidectomy. To learn more about how to prepare for a thyroidectomy and what to expect after thyroid surgery, please download our patient education sheet.

Thyroidectomy at Boston Children’s Hospital

When it comes to pediatric thyroid surgery, experience is crucial. Although thyroid cancer is less common in children than in adults, the rate of surgical complications is higher, perhaps because few surgeons are well versed in the treatment of pediatric thyroid disease. At Boston Children’s Thyroid Center, our pediatric surgeons specialize in the care of children and adolescents with thyroid disease, making us one of the most experienced centers of its kind in the country. This breadth and depth of knowledge result in exceptional outcomes and a low rate of surgical complications, which means that you can trust that your child is in the best hands.

Watch: Learn more about a thyroidectomy

Thyroidectomy | Programs & Services