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

Frequently Asked Questions: Scarless Thyroidectomy or Parathyroidectomy

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

For decades, surgeons have tried to achieve a truly scarless thyroidectomy or parathyroidectomy. This new procedure offered at UChicago Medicine is the revolutionary approach patients and physicians have been seeking.

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

The scars left after conventional thyroidectomy or parathyroidectomy have become significantly smaller over the past 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.

thyroid removal

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 expert 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 surgical options.

The laparoscopic operation is carried out under general anesthesia, so you would be completely asleep during the entire operation. The surgeon makes three small incisions on the inner surface of your 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.

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

The scarless thyroidectomy procedure has equivalent cure rates to conventional 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.

Removing Thyroid & Parathyroid Glands Through the Mouth Prevents a Visible Scar

A surgical team from UChicago Medicine was the first in the Midwest and the fourth in the United States to remove thyroid glands using an approach that leaves no visible scar. Rather than performing the surgery through an incision in the neck, which leaves a visible scar, this new scar-free approach is done via a very small incision inside the mouth, between the gums and lower lip.