Medically reviewed on Sept 20, 2023 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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A healthcare provider may perform a thyroid removal (thyroidectomy) if a patient has a small thyroid growth, thyrotoxicosis, thyroid cancer, or thyroid swelling. Thyroid removal is also an alternative to radioactive iodine treatment in people with overactive thyroid. 
While there are risks of a thyroidectomy, the good news is that you can live without a thyroid. However, patients will need to take thyroid hormone pills for the remainder of their lives. 
The thyroid is a small gland in the neck that plays an important role in your body’s endocrine system. This system regulates various bodily processes through the production of hormones. 
The thyroid, specifically, controls your metabolic rate through thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Collectively, these hormones are called ‘the thyroid hormone’. 
To trigger the production of the thyroid hormone, the gland must first receive signals from the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of your brain. The brain releases thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which causes the pituitary gland to do the same. Once the thyroid receives these signals, it produces T3 and T4. 
When T4 enters the bloodstream, cells in the liver, kidneys, and muscles convert it into T3, the active version of the hormone. Thyroid hormone then makes its way throughout the body, impacting :
Unfortunately, abnormal thyroid hormone levels can occur, disproportionately impacting women and people assigned female at birth (AFAB). 
While too high or too low thyroid hormone levels may occur due to an issue with the brain or pituitary gland, they most often arise when the thyroid cannot function properly. Common thyroid issues include :
See related: Heterogeneous Thyroid
To treat certain thyroid disorders, such as thyroid cancer, goiter, and hyperthyroidism, healthcare providers may choose to perform a thyroidectomy. Varying degrees of the thyroid may be removed, or it can be removed entirely. 
If you undergo a partial thyroidectomy, your thyroid may still work normally. However, a full thyroidectomy removes the thyroid completely. Those who have their entire thyroid removed will require daily thyroid hormone medications.4 You must also check for signs your thyroid medication is working.
A thyroidectomy typically takes only two to three hours, and healthcare providers usually put the patient under with anesthesia. As with any surgery, anesthesia poses a risk and may cause breathing complications, bleeding, blood clots, and/or infection. 
The thyroidectomy procedure itself can also run into a few roadblocks,namely :
Following the complete or partial removal of the thyroid, people can usually return home on the same day, just as long as they can swallow liquids without issue. 
Some patients can experience pain following the thyroid surgery, but it’s common for healthcare providers to prescribe pain medications to assist with recovery, which can take four to six weeks. 
Patients undergoing complete thyroid removal must also undergo thyroid hormone replacement therapy. The daily pills synthetically mimic the thyroid hormone to ensure the body maintains its metabolic function. 
So, can you live without a thyroid? Most definitely. When a thyroid is completely or partially removed, a healthcare provider can prescribe thyroid hormone replacement pills to mimic the thyroid function and maintain homeostasis throughout the body.
If you believe your thyroid is not functioning properly, test your hypothesis with the Everlywell At-Home Thyroid Test. With one finger prick, a third-party lab can measure your blood levels for three main thyroid hormones, including T3 and T4, to provide you with the insights you need to support your overall health and wellness.