What is the function of the Thyroid gland?
The thyroid gland produces hormones that can cause hair changes, sleep disruptions, weight fluctuations, mood changes and much more. On the other hand, the gland itself can grow and push on it’s surroundings, form lumps, and even turn into cancer. It some cases it can even cause voice and swallowing problems.
How is the Thyroid gland function and size assessed?
The thyroid hormone level can be tested via blood work. The size of the thyroid gland or lumpiness may or may not be a cause for hormone disturbance. The shape, size, and presence of lumps inside of the thyroid gland is best assessed by the Ultrasound. The Ultrasound is performed by hand (unlike CAT scan and MRI that is performed by a computer), it is always better for the surgeon to personally evaluate the thyroid gland and have a mental picture of what is happening to the gland.
Most of the thyroid hormone abnormalities can be managed by medications. Low levels of the hormone are treated by hormone replacement. High levels of the hormone are treated based on the causes of over-production.
Most thyroid shape and structure abnormalities should be evaluated by a surgeon. The goal is to determine who can be monitored with scheduled ultrasound examinations, who should have a biopsy, and who should undergo surgery.
How do we make decision for treatment?
The American Thyroid Association is comprised by scientists, endocrinologists, surgeons, cancer specialists, among many more. The specialists review multiple scientific papers, research projects, and expert opinions. This organization releases guidelines that are developed on the most current scientific discoveries in the field of thyroid diseases. The guidelines serve as assistance for doctors in their decision. Most of the doctors that have dedicated themselves to treat thyroid diseases consult with these guidelines.
Where is the Thyroid gland located?
Thyroid means “shield” in the Greek language. It has right and left sides, and is connected in the middle. It is located in the middle of the neck just above the collar bones. It sits on top or near vital organs: trachea (windpipe), nerves to the voice box, esophagus (swallowing pipe), next to Carotid arteries. Despite the complex anatomy, in experienced hands, the removal of the diseased thyroid gland has low complication levels.
Should everyone who has abnormal looking thyroid gland have it removed?
Absolutely NOT! The decision about surgery is made based on guidelines, endocrinologist’s and surgeon’s expertise, patient’s health status, and even on patient’s desires/comfort levels.
How many surgeries have I done?
70% of my practice of over 10 years has been dedicated to the treatment of thyroid gland diseases. I personally perform ultrasound evaluations and biopsies. I follow the most current changes in the ATA guidelines, I am a member of American Thyroid Associations, I am a preceptor in the Ultrasound course for the surgeons, and I have been a guest-speaker on the surgical management of thyroid disease on several national-level meetings. Due to the shear volume of surgeries I have performed, it would be impossible to count.