Two operations are performed on the thyroid.  Total thyroidectomy ( removal of the whole thyroid) or hemithyroidectomy ( removal of half the thyroid).

Thyroidectomy is a specialised operation.  Given the thyroid’s location in the neck with important surrounding  structures, it is best performed by expert surgeons who perform more than 50 endocrine operations per year. 

Total thyroidectomy

Total thyroidectomy involves removing the whole thyroid gland.  This is done under a general anaesthetic ( patient is asleep) via an incision on the neck in a skin crease.  The scar usually heals well in this location – your surgeon will instruct you on the best way to help the scar heal and fade.  The thyroid is removed using a capsular dissection.  This technique allows the thyroid to be removed, leaving behind and protecting the surrounding  structures.  All surgery has risks, these risks will be discussed with you and are minimised under the care of a specialist endocrine surgeon.  You will be provided with a brochure on the surgery, which details the operation, risks and expected recovery after surgery. 

Following total thyroidectomy, thyroxine tablets are required for life.


Hemithyroidectomy involves removal of half the thyroid gland.  This is done in a similar fashion to total thyroidectomy but is a shorter operation, with faster recovery , less risk and less time in hospital.  Only 20% of patients require thyroxine after hemithyroidectomy.