Saturday, March 25, 2006

Wish This Had Been Around 4 Years Ago...

The National Women's Health Information Center has a news piece up, "New Thyroid Surgeries Require Smaller Incisions," which says, "Both techniques use smaller neck incisions and speed patient recovery. One method is minimally invasive thyroidectomy, in which surgeons work through an incision about half the size of the usual three-to-four inch incision used in standard surgery. The other method uses an even smaller incision to provide access for a thin, ultrasonic scalpel that's guided by a tiny video camera at the tip of the instrument." It also says that about 30% of patients will still require the standard approach (i.e. the 3-4 inch neck incision).

Your women's health blogger (thyroid diseases are more likely to occur in women) had thyroid surgery in late 2001 for a hyperfunctioning ("hot") nodule. This basically means that there was a chunk of my thyroid that was cranking out hormones independently of what my brain/body said I needed. It can be much like hyperthyroidism, but perhaps not as straightforward - other non-nodule parts of the thyroid just shut down. The physical/psychological symptoms are pretty harsh, including rapid heart rate (once clocked at 115 bpm, resting), nervousness, always being hot and sweaty (sometimes didn't need a coat in winter close to Lake Erie), anxiety, irritability, tremor, sleeping problems, fatigue, muscle weakness, changes in menstrual and bowel patterns, and changes in appetite. The fatigue was sometimes overwhelming. Luckily, I eventually found an excellent endocrinologist, who figured out the problem and sent me for surgery, the result of which being that the remaining parts of my thyroid work as expected with no meds needed.

So what is the thyroid surgery experience like? It's fairly uncomfortable. I had previously had surgery for a knee injury, which was a quick in and out thing. The thyroid operation requires overnight observation in case of swelling that can cause breathing problems. In fact, they put a tracheotomy kit in the hospital room just in case. This really disturbed my parents, but a good friend who had worked in a hospital warned me of this before I went in so I was expecting it (thanks, Vickie!). The worst part is the positioning - they have your neck elevated and your head back throughout the procedure, resulting in one hell of a sore neck. Beyond that, the IV was the most irritating, because medical tape causes me to have red, swelling, painful skin.

So, anybody wanna see my scar? :)

Resources:
American Thyroid Association
My Endocrine Disorder - American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists
Thyroid Nodules - MayoClinic.com
Thyroid Diseases - MedlinePlus
Thyroid Surgery - Interactive Tutorial
Thyroid Disorders and Treatment - Thyroid Foundation of America

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MeSH Tags: Thyroid Gland/surgery; Thyroid Nodule/surgery

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