Surgery on the thyroid gland requires special attention and expertise because of the close proximity of the thyroid to the recurrent laryngeal nerves (nerves that power the vocal cords). The vocal cords rest within the larynx in the neck and move as we speak, swallow, and breathe. If the nerves that innervate these structures are damaged during thyroid surgery, a patient’s ability to speak, swallow, and breathe can be significantly affected. Learn more about our nerve monitoring program »
Thyroid cancer presents certain unique challenges at surgery. It has traditionally been associated with higher rates of complication, including recurrent laryngeal nerve injury, as compared with surgery for benign thyroid conditions. With expertise in head and neck surgical techniques and extensive knowledge of the anatomy of the recurrent laryngeal nerve, parathyroid glands, and surrounding lymph nodes, surgeons in the Division are well prepared for these challenging cases. Learn more about thyroid cancer surgery »
Thyroid nodules are very common, occurring in 15-65 percent of people of all ages. They occur in both women and men but are especially common in women (50 percent of women ages 50 or older have had a thyroid nodule). Usually patients and their physicians first notice thyroid nodules during a routine physical exam of the neck area, and sometimes they are found incidentally during a radiographic evaluation of the neck. Learn more about thyroid nodules »
The most common problem related to the parathyroid glands is a condition called primary hyperparathyroidism (PTH). Many patients are first diagnosed with primary hyperparathyroidism when routine blood tests show abnormally high levels of calcium in the bloodstream. The diagnosis is confirmed when subsequent testing shows a high level of PTH, a hormone secreted by the parathyroid glands, in their blood.
PTH can lead to a number of medical issues and symptoms including kidney stones, bone pain, osteoporosis (loss of bone mass), and mood disorders. Learn more about PTH »
Goiter is an abnormally enlarged thyroid gland. It was once a common condition in the United States due to iodine deficiency, but the increased use of iodized salt has virtually eradicated this problem. Goiter cases today are most often a result of the coalescence of benign thyroid nodules, which can grow and sometimes multiply over time. Read more about goiter »
A diagnosis of hyperthyroidism is made when a blood test shows high levels of thyroid hormones and very low levels of thyroid-stimulating hormones (TSH), which is produced by the pituitary gland. When there are excessive levels of thyroid hormones in the bloodstream, the body’s normal feedback mechanism turns off the pituitary gland’s production of TSH, resulting in very low TSH levels.
The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ disease, a condition marked by enlargement of the thyroid (also known as “goiter”), a bulging appearance to the eyes (“ophthalmopathy”), and sometimes changes to the skin along the legs. Learn more about Graves' disease »
Thyroid cancer presents certain unique challenges in surgery. Revision surgery for thyroid cancer presents even greater challenges, due to scarring and anatomical distortion from previous surgical procedure(s). Revision thyroid surgery has been associated with higher rates of complication, including recurrent laryngeal nerve paralysis (with a potential impact on voice and breathing) and parathyroid insufficiency (with an impact on calcium metabolism), as compared to first time surgery for thyroid cancer. Revision surgery for thyroid cancer is an area of specific expertise for surgeons at Mass. Eye and Ear. Learn more about revision surgery »