source: Graves’ Disease & Thyroid Foundation
Kyle Zanocco, Cord Sturgeon
The surgical treatment of Graves’ disease consists of the removal of a portion or all of the thyroid gland in a surgical procedure known as thyroidectomy. This procedure was the treatment of choice for Graves’ disease prior to the 1950’s but is now less popular in the United States than radioactive iodine (RAI), which is felt to be lower risk than surgery. However, major technical advances in the field of thyroid surgery make thyroid surgery a viable and sometimes superior treatment choice for Graves’ disease patients.
In brief, the two surgical options are total thyroidectomy (sometimes called near-total), where all the thyroid gland is removed, and subtotal thyroidectomy, were some of the thyroid is left in place. Subtotal thyroidectomy may be offered in an attempt to remove enough thyroid tissue to cure the hyperthyroidism, but leave just enough to prevent the need for lifelong thyroid hormone medication. Unfortunately, it is not an exact science and it may be difficult to predict how much thyroid tissue to leave in place. Most surgeons agree that it is better to take too much than too little because it would be worse for the patient to still have hyperthyroidism after surgery.
Northwestern University, USA