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What is the difference between thyroid and parathyroid surgery?

The thyroid is the gland that hangs over your trachea like a dumbbell and looks like a butterfly. It produces thyroid hormone. Surgery is performed on the thyroid for:

  • Cancer
  • Nodules that are suspicious for cancer
  • Compressive symptoms
  • Hyperthyroidism/Graves’ disease
  • Very rarely for cosmesis- for instance, if someone had a very large goiter and did not like the way their neck looked

The parathyroid glands have nothing to do functionally with the thyroid gland, but they are physically attached to the thyroid “capsule.” The parathyroid glands are their own entity and produce parathyroid hormone, which keeps the body’s calcium levels normal.

For parathyroid surgery, when the parathyroid gland/s is removed, it is for something called hyperparathyroidism. Hyperparathyroidism is where a gland/s can produce too much parathyroid hormone, which causes high calcium levels. This can cause many problems within the body (heart, kidneys, bones) as well as cause a lot of horrible symptoms (dementia, depression, problems concentrating, insomnia, to name a few).