Health Watch

Thyroid Surgery: Hiding The Scar

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Millions of Americans suffer from thyroid problems. Abnormalities in this butterfly shaped gland in the neck can lead to discomfort or even cancer. Removing the thyroid used to mean major surgery and a very large, unattractive incision across the neck.

A new approach takes inspiration from a face-lift to help patients feel and look better after surgery.

Forty-six year old La Vallia Walker loves wearing pretty things. But when doctors told her she needed surgery for a lump in her thyroid gland, she was afraid it wasn't going to be pretty.

"I didn't like seeing a big scar in the front of someone's neck. You could tell they had surgery. That didn't look too good," Walker told Ivanhoe.

Thyroid surgery used to mean a long, horizontal scar.

"The conventional way of removing the thyroid is to make a big, what used to be called the'necklace incision', low in the neck," David Terris, M.D., surgical director at the Thyroid Center at the Medical College of Georgia, said.

New robotic techniques have opened the door to thyroid surgery without the big neck incision -- including an approach that goes in through the armpit. But Dr. Terris believes a different entry point works even better. It's similar to a facelift.

"We've moved that incision behind the ear because it shortens the distance we have to travel to get to the thyroid gland and reduced the amount of dissection required to get there," Dr. Terris added.

The so-called "facelift approach" can mean less pain, fewer complications, and for Walker, one other big plus: a scar she can hide under her favorite hairstyle.

"I don't have to have a big scar that I can look in the mirror and see. It's, you know, behind my ear," Walker concluded.

A new kind of thyroid surgery that's giving Walker and her doctors, plenty to smile about.

Doctors at the Medical College of Georgia believe they are the first to use the facelift approach to remove the thyroid.

The surgery, done under general anesthesia, takes about two hours and generally is covered by insurance.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Toni Baker, Media Relations
Medical College of Georgia
Augusta, GA
tbaker@mcg.edu

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