The thyroid and parathyroid structures, located in the neck, are a grouping of glands that regulate various bodily functions. The thyroid secretes thyroid hormone while the parathyroid regulates the metabolism of calcium. There are many disorders involving the thyroid and parathyroid glands including:
- Hyperthyroidism – involves the overproduction of thyroid hormone causing a number of mild to severe symptoms. The most common cause of this condition is knowns as Graves’ disease and affects up to a million Americans every year. Treatment can include medication, iodine ablation and surgery
- Hypothyroidism – involves the underproduction of thyroid hormone causing a wide range of symptoms. Typically, this is managed with synthetic thyroid medication
- Thyroid Nodules – Single or multiple thyroid nodules can cause the symptoms of hyperthyroidism and must be checked for malignancy. Depending on the diagnosis, a treatment option will be determined
- Goiter – a goiter involves the enlargement of the thyroid gland which can alternately cause no symptoms at all, or, if very large, cause difficulty breathing, swelling and difficulty swallowing. An examination should be performed to check for malignancy
- Hyperparathyroidism involves the excess production of parathyroid hormone. This can be caused by a tumor that may cause excess calcium to build up in the body. The most common concern is the long-term demineralization of bones in the body, which can lead to osteoporosis. The treatment for parathyroid conditions is surgery.
Thyroid and Parathyroid Surgery
When thyroid surgery is recommended, the surgeon can perform a thyroid lobectomy, where approximately half of the thyroid is removed, or a total thyroidectomy, in which the entire gland is removed. In some thyroid lobectomy cases, especially if malignancy is found, a second procedure to remove the remaining part of the thyroid may have to be performed.
Parathyroid surgery usually focuses on the gland or glands that are causing the elevated hormone secretion. During surgery, blood levels of parathyroid hormone will be measured to see if any other glands are affected.