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Truly Scarless Approach to Thyroid and Parathyroid Gland Removal

Surgeons at the University of Chicago Medicine are the first in the Midwest and among the first in the nation to offer an exciting and innovative option for thyroid or parathyroid patients: a truly scarless thyroidectomy for removal of diseased thyroid glands. The technique, known as the transoral endoscopic thyroidectomy vestibular approach (TOETVA), is an innovative surgery that promises the same successful outcomes as conventional gland removal without any of the lasting scarring.

For decades, surgeons have tried to achieve a truly scarless result from thyroidectomy or parathyroidectomy, but instead the scarring was relocated from the neck to another part of the body. This new procedure offered at the University of Chicago Medicine is the revolutionary approach patients and physicians have been seeking.

Q. What is a scarless thyroidectomy or parathyroidectomy?

A. The scarless thyroidectomy is a minimally invasive technique to remove diseased thyroid or parathyroid glands without leaving any visible scars anywhere on the body. The surgery is performed laparoscopically through small incisions on the inner surface of the lower lip without any external neck incisions. The inner lip incisions will completely heal, leaving no evidence of surgery.

Q. What are the benefits of the scarless thyroidectomy for thyroid and parathyroid conditions?

A. This approach avoids any external, visible scars to the neck or other body areas while allowing safe and complete removal of thyroid or parathyroid glands.

The conventional thyroidectomy or parathyroidectomy scar has become significantly smaller over the last several decades, and in general these scars heal well over time. However, the conventional approach will always leave visible scarring on the neck that is not easily hidden. This truly scarless approach will leave no external evidence of the procedure.

Post-op photos show the transoral thyroidectomy resulted in no visible scars on Sheri Caine’s chin and neck

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Q. Who are the potential candidates for a scarless thyroidectomy?

A. Anyone who needs an operation to remove the thyroid or parathyroid glands is a potential candidate for the procedure. However, some limiting factors exist, such as the size of the affected gland and the underlying condition. People with the following diagnoses may be candidates for the scarless thyroid surgery:

  • Benign thyroid nodule less than 6 cm
  • Thyroid cancer nodule less than 2 cm
  • Thyroid removal for benign conditions
  • Primary hyperparathyroidism
  • Some secondary or tertiary cases of hyperparathyroidism

Our interdisciplinary team carefully evaluates each potential patient’s specific condition to recommend the safest and most effective treatments options. If you are not a candidate for the scarless thyroid surgery, learn more about other treatment options.

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Q. What can patients expect during the scarless thyroidectomy?

A. The laparoscopic operation is carried out under general anesthesia, so the patient is completely asleep during the entire operation. The surgeon makes three small incisions on the inner surface of the patient’s lip to insert surgical instruments and a high-resolution camera. These small incisions are closed after the thyroid/parathyroid gland is removed, leaving no external scarring.

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Q. What is the follow-up care after the scarless thyroidectomy?

A. After the procedure, patients will stay in the hospital overnight so a dedicated care team can monitor their recovery from surgery and anesthesia. The next day they are discharged and instructed to take oral antibiotics, pain medications and mouth rinses at home for several days following. Small stitches used during surgery will dissolve, and minor bruising on the chin and neck typically clears up within two to seven days.

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Q. What are the outcomes for a patient having a scarless thyroidectomy?

A. The scarless thyroidectomy procedure has equivalent cure rates to conventional the thyroidectomy or parathyroidectomy through neck incisions. As with any surgery, some risks are associated with this procedure. However, for the vast majority of patients, both approaches are highly safe and effective operations with a low rate of complications. The scarless approach does not increase the risk of complication.

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Our Team

Zhen Gooi, MD

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  • Scarless Thyroidectomy