Surgery is usually offered to children with large goitres or severe symptoms. It may also be suggested if your child’s hyperthyroidism returns after a course of antithyroid drugs. The surgery will remove all (total thyroidectomy) or part (lobectomy) of the thyroid gland. You will be able to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of thyroid surgery with your child’s doctor.
Thyroid surgery can cause a hoarse voice due to damage to the voice box. Usually this disappears after several weeks, but sometimes takes longer to recover, and can occasionally be permanent. Low calcium levels can sometimes occur due to damage to the parathyroid glands, and calcium supplements and vitamin D are needed if they stop working.
We strongly recommend that your child’s surgery is performed by an endocrine or head-and-neck surgeon who regularly carries out thyroid and parathyroid surgery. Don’t hesitate to check your surgeon’s experience: ask about the number of thyroid operations they do each year and their rate of complications, before you decide. Your surgeon should explain the possible complications to you beforehand. Before the operation you will be asked to sign an informed consent form.
Your child will probably need to stay in hospital for a few days after the operation. Surgery will leave a small scar; this will usually fade over time.
If your child has had a total thyroidectomy they will need to take levothyroxine for life. If part of their thyroid gland removed they may eventually develop hypothyroidism because the remaining thyroid gland can’t produce enough thyroid hormone, and will need to take levothyroxine. Levothyroxine is a replacement for the thyroxine that their body should produce naturally. Even if your child doesn’t become hypothyroid immediately, they should have a thyroid function test (TFT) every six to twelve months to check their thyroid hormone levels.