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What can I Expect During Endocrine Surgery?

By A. Garrett
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Endocrine surgery is used to repair the three glands specializing in hormone secretion: the thyroid, parathyroid, and adrenal glands. The most common aspects of endocrine surgery involve the removal of a tumor that has developed on one of the glands in the endocrine system. These glands may also be removed from the gland system via a thyroidectomy, parathyroidectomy, or adrenalectomy. Recovery times vary based on the type of endocrine surgery performed and the extent of damage to the endocrine tissues.

The thyroid gland is found in the neck and controls the body’s metabolism. There are several reasons why someone would need this type of endocrine surgery, including enlargement of the thyroid, cancer of the thyroid, inflammation of the thyroid, and the production of too much or too little of the thyroid hormone. Prior to thyroid surgery, the endocrine surgeon or physician will conduct a full-body check up and complementary blood work. The patient will also visit an anesthesiologist due to the fact that he or she will not be awake during the surgery. The surgery lasts between one and two hours and the patient may be discharged the same day and can begin normal daily routines within a week.

Four parathyroid glands exist behind the thyroid. Endocrine surgery is typically required when an enlarged, overactive parathyroid glands needs to be removed or when tumors develop on these glands. The pre- and post-operative treatments for this type of endocrine surgery closely resemble those used for thyroid surgery: namely a physical and consultation with an anesthesiologist.

Possible side effects associated with both thyroid and parathyroid surgeries are gravelly voices and difficulty swallowing. Also, people who have either gland completely removed may need thyroid medication for the rest of their lives. This is because they no longer have the means to produce and secrete the hormones necessary for the normal function of the body.

The adrenal glands are located near the kidneys and regulate blood pressure. Tumors and cancerous growths are the primary reasons why endocrine surgery may be required for these glands. During such surgeries, incisions are made across the abdomen or above the kidney so that such glands can be easily accessed. If the tumor is benign, the surgeon simply removes it; if the tumor is malignant or cancerous, the surgeon will cut off the blood supply to the tumor and attempt to remove as much of it as possible. This surgery usually lasts two to four hours and may require the patient to stay in the hospital for as long as two weeks.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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