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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What are the side effects of surgery for thyroid cancer?

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    Dr Nicolas Oddone Baridon MBBS, MS, MD, FRACS is an accomplished and passionate General Surgeon whose main interest is thyroid surgery (endocrine surgeon). He has … View Profile

    There are no side effects of thyroid surgery as such. Side effects is a term better suited for medication. Surgery can cause complications. In thyroid surgery there are two main long term complications, recurrent laryngeal nerve injury and accidental parathyroid excision. Recurrent nerve injury can cause a hoarse voice. This is because this nerve supplies the muscles of the vocal cord. There are two nerves on each side. If the nerve is injured, the muscles lose their connection and stop moving, thus the vocal cord loses tension and as a violin string the is loosen, the sound becomes deeper. Recurrent nerve injury rates are very low in specialised thyroid surgeons hands. 

    Parathyroid excision can happen in two ways, firstly the gland, which is very small, a few mm in size, is removed accidentally with the thyroid. The parathyroids sit next to the thyroid and have a very similar appearance to fat. Secondly they can be removed when are located within the thyroid gland. Parathyroid glands are present usually in fours. There are two on each side. Although they can all be accidentally removed, this is uncommon. We only need one functioning parathyroid to sustain its function. 

    Patients that have the whole thyroid gland removed will need to take hormonal replacement to replace the function of the thyroid gland.

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