Conditions & Treatments of the Neck

Thyroidectomy

Thyroidectomy is a common surgical procedure involving the removal of some or all of the thyroid gland. The most common conditions requiring a thyroidectomy are thyroid cancer, goiter, or a hyperthyroidism condition like Graves’ disease that cannot be treated with radiation therapy or medication. A small incision is made in the neck skin and tissues surrounding the thyroid are pulled aside, and the thyroid is removed. Immediately following the surgery you may experience a weaker voice or have a hard time swallowing. If you have a total thyroidectomy your doctor will also monitor you for hypoparathyroidism, which is when calcium levels in your blood drop dangerously low. It usually takes 1 to 4 weeks to recover fully from thyroidectomy.

Parathyroidectomy

Parathyroidectomy is similar to a thyroidectomy in that it involves the removal of a gland in the neck. In this case, the parathyroid glands, which are located right behind your thyroid gland, are removed. The parathyroid glands maintain calcium levels in your blood. The procedure is done in a similar fashion to thyroid surgery. Because the glands are very small, you will need to have tests to help the surgeon locate the glands before the surgery. Immediately following the surgery you may experience a weaker voice or have a hard time swallowing. Your doctor will also monitor you for hypoparathyroidism, which is when calcium levels in your blood drop dangerously low. It usually takes 1 to 3 weeks to fully recover from a parathyroidectomy.

Parotidectomy

Parotidectomy is the surgical removal of the parotid gland, a salivary gland located in the cheek just in front of the ear. There are many different methodologies to performing a parotidectomy depending on the location of the surgery and the amount of gland to be removed. All parotidectomies are performed under general anesthesia. Once asleep, a facelift type incision is made around the ear. From there, the surgeon carefully dissects the tissues of the gland off of the nerve (facial nerve that moves the face). A parotidectomy usually takes between 2 to 5 hours to perform, depending on the amount of dissection. After the procedure, mild facial numbness is normal for a few months. Full recovery of facial functionality can take up to a year.

Submandibular Gland Excision

The submandibular glands are salivary glands (similar to the parotid glands) which are under the back of the jaw. They produce most of the saliva in your mouth. Any growth in the submandibular gland is considered an abnormal development and will be monitored. If no decrease is observed, removal of some or all of the gland is recommended, with a biopsy to determine whether the growth is benign or malignant and for future prognosis. Removal is done under general anesthesia, with a small incision made in the neck to access and remove the gland. After surgery you may have some lower lip weakness that usually recovers within a few months.

Excision of Congenital Neck Mass

There are a number of inheritable conditions that cause growths or lumps in the neck not associated with the above conditions. These masses are present at birth. Treatment depends heavily on location and size of the mass, but in order to avoid complications of airway obstruction, potential malignant transformation, or infection, congenital neck masses generally require early removal. This is done under general anesthesia and removed through a neck incision. After surgery recovery typically takes a few weeks.

Neck Dissection

A neck dissection is a major surgery to remove one or more of the lymph nodes in the neck, and sometimes includes removal of tissue surrounding the lymph nodes. This procedure is performed when there are indications that cancer cells have spread to those lymph nodes. Removal of the cancerous nodes helps to prevent the cancer from metastasizing further. During the dissection the surgeon will also examine all of the structures of the neck for possible malignancy and remove potentially malignant structures. Recovery time for a neck dissection is highly variable, but generally full recovery takes 2 to 4 weeks. Soreness in the throat and neck is common but should fade with time.