Head & Neck

Living with Thyroid Conditions? Exploring Thyroidectomy as a Treatment Option

July 31, 2023
Living with Thyroid Conditions Exploring Thyroidectomy as a Treatment Option

Living with thyroid conditions can be challenging, affecting various aspects of daily life. If you are considering treatment options, one option worth exploring is thyroidectomy. 

In this blog post, we will delve into what the thyroid gland is, when thyroidectomy is necessary, the procedure itself, the risks involved, postoperative recovery, and alternative treatments. Dr Gan Eng Cern, a reputable ENT doctor in Singapore, can provide guidance and support throughout your thyroid surgery journey.

What is the thyroid gland?

Located in the front of your neck, the thyroid gland is a vital part of your endocrine system. It produces hormones that regulate metabolism, energy levels, growth, and body temperature. When the thyroid gland malfunctions, it can lead to various conditions such as hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, goitre, or thyroid nodules.

When should a thyroidectomy be considered?

Thyroid surgery may be recommended in several situations. A common mnemonic used for indications for thyroidectomy is the four “C”s. 

  • Suspected Thyroid Cancer: Thyroid nodules or growths that are suspected to be cancerous may be detected through clinical examination, fine needle aspiration and cytology (“needle biopsy”) and ultrasound. Removal of half (hemithyroidectomy) or the entire thyroid gland (total thyroidectomy) may be recommended in such situations.
  • Compressive Symptoms In the Neck: When a thyroid nodule is big (usually > 4 cm), it may cause discomfort such as difficulty in swallowing or breathing and thus, thyroidectomy may be needed.
  • Uncontrolled Hyperthyroidism: If medication or radioactive iodine therapy fails to effectively control overactive thyroid function, surgical removal of the thyroid gland may be advised.
  • Cosmesis: Sometimes, the thyroid gland or nodules may cause an unsightly lump in the neck and the patient may decide to undergo thyroidectomy for cosmetic purposes. Usually, when the thyroid lump is big enough (usually > 4 cm)  to cause such an issue, a thyroidectomy is often recommended to exclude cancerous growth that may not be apparent on needle biopsy or ultrasound.

How is a thyroidectomy performed?

How is a thyroidectomy performed

Thyroidectomy, a surgical procedure, involves the removal of one-half of (hemithyroidectomy) or the whole thyroid gland (total thyroidectomy). The procedure is done under general anaesthesia. The ENT doctor makes an incision (about 5-8 cm) is made on the front part of the neck (just above the collar bones) to allow access to the thyroid gland. Through this incision, the doctor removes the affected portion or the entire gland, depending on the individual case. 


If you have any concerns about thyroid surgery, do not hesitate to reach out to Dr Gan at his ENT clinic located in Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital. 

What are the risks involved with a thyroidectomy?

Like any surgical procedure, thyroidectomy carries certain risks. Potential complications include:

  • Infection of the neck wound
  • Bleeding from the neck wound or surgical bed
  • Seroma (collection of fluid within the neck cavity after thyroidectomy) but is usually temporary
  • Injury to the nerve supply to the voice box resulting in voice box weakness (paralysis). This can cause a hoarse voice, inability to achieve high notes during singing, aspiration or swallowing difficulties. The injury is permanent <1% of the time and temporary 20-30% of the time.
  • Excessive scarring of the neck wound (keloid)
  • The need for lifelong thyroid hormone replacement pills and  potentially calcium supplementations if total thyroidectomy is performed
  • Injuries to surrounding neck structures are very rare but possible to occur in the major blood vessels in the neck, the food pipe or the windpipe

Before undergoing the procedure, thoroughly discuss the potential risks and benefits with your doctor to ensure informed decision-making. 

What is the postoperative recovery after a thyroidectomy like?

What is the postoperative recovery after a thyroidectomy like

Following thyroidectomy, you may experience a few days of discomfort and mild swelling in the neck. However, prescribed pain medication and proper care help alleviate these symptoms. There will be a drain (which is a tube placed in your neck on one end and an attached bottle on the other end) in your neck.  A neck drain is usually placed to prevent accumulation of body fluid or blood in the neck after the procedure. It is usually removed at the bedside 2-3 days after the surgery. The stitches in your neck will usually be removed 5-7 days after surgery. 

 If your thyroid lump is big or if your surgery was complicated, your voice may be weak and hoarse afterwards. Most of the time this is temporary and will recover in 2-3 months. 

Your ENT doctor will provide detailed postoperative instructions, including wound care and dietary restrictions, and adhering to these guidelines is crucial for a smooth recovery. In most cases, individuals can resume their normal activities within a week or two, with some limitations on strenuous exercises or heavy lifting for a few weeks.

Learn more: What to Expect Before & After Thyroid Surgery

What are the alternatives to thyroidectomy?

While thyroidectomy is a proven treatment option, it is also essential to consider alternatives based on your specific condition. These alternatives may include medication to manage thyroid conditions, radioactive iodine therapy for hyperthyroidism, or watchful waiting for noncancerous thyroid nodules. 

Dr Gan will evaluate your individual situation and offer guidance to help you make an informed decision that aligns with your health goals and preferences.

Empowering You to Thrive Beyond Thyroid Challenges

Living with thyroid conditions can be challenging, but exploring treatment options such as thyroidectomy can provide much-needed relief and improve your overall well-being. 

Dr Gan ENT, a trusted ENT clinic in Singapore, offers dedicated and professional guidance and support throughout your thyroid surgery journey.

Get in touch with us today!


    When Should You See an ENT Specialist in Singapore?

    • Any ear, nose or throat symptoms that you are troubled with or concerned about
    • Persistent blocked nose with mouth breathing or snoring

    Dr Gan Eng Cern

    Dr Gan Eng Cern is a distinguished ENT doctor with fellowship training. In addition to his clinical practice as an ear, nose and throat specialist in Singapore, Dr. Gan has contributed to the academic field as a Senior Clinical Lecturer at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore. He is recognised for his extensive research work, with numerous contributions to reputable international ENT journals. Dr Gan is also highly sought after as a speaker and has shared his surgical knowledge as a surgical dissection teacher at various prominent ENT conferences and courses.


    • 2020 – Reader’s Choice Gold Award for Best ENT Specialist (Expat Living Singapore)
    • 2016 – Best Educator Award (Eastern Health Alliance)
    • 2016 – “Wow” Award (Patient Compliment)
    • 2014 – Eastern Health Alliance Caring Award – Silver
    • 2014 – 19th Yahya Cohen Memorial Lectureship (awarded by the College of Surgeons, Academy of Medicine Singapore for best scientific surgical paper)
    • 2012 – Human Manpower Development Award (Ministry of Health, Singapore)
    • 2007 – Singhealth Best Doctor Award


    • MBBS – Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia)
    • MRCS (Edin) – Member of the Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh, United Kingdom
    • MMed (ORL) – Master of Medicine in ENT (National University of Singapore)
    • FAMS – Fellow of the Academy of Medicine Singapore

    Why Choose Dr Gan Eng Cern


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    Experienced and patient ENT Specialist who has your best interests at heart. We aim to provide you with accessible and specialized care for any ENT condition in a comfortable setting.


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