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Johns Hopkins Bayview News - Patients Benefit from an Innovative Approach to a Common Diagnosis

Fall 2012

Patients Benefit from an Innovative Approach to a Common Diagnosis

By: Allison Eatough
Date: September 3, 2012

Young woman getting a neck ultrasound
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One in 12 young women has one.

Most people will develop one by the time they’re 50 years old.

This diagnosis of one of the most common endocrine problems in the United States.

What is it? A thyroid nodule. And it’s more common than you think.

Johns Hopkins surgeons are taking a new, cosmetic approach when it comes to removing the thyroid. The procedure, known as robotic facelift thyroidectomy, uses robotic technology and leaves no visible scars on a patient’s neck.

“If anyone were looking from the front or the side, you would not see a visible incision,” says Jeremy Richmon, M.D., director of head and neck robotic surgery at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

Johns Hopkins is one of only a few hospitals in the country to offer the procedure.

The thyroid gland is located at the base of the neck. It produces hormones that regulate growth and control metabolism. But sometimes, the thyroid–or just part of it–needs to be removed. Reasons include thyroid cancer, suspicious or enlarged nodules or an overactive thyroid.

In a traditional thyroidectomy, surgeons make a visible incision on the lower part of the neck.

But some patients prefer not to have such a prominent scar, Dr. Richmon says. For these patients, robotic facelift thyroidectomy could be an alternative.

During the robotic procedure, an incision is made behind the ear, just as plastic surgeons would for a facelift. The incision continues around the back of the neck and behind the patient’s hairline. Usually a small portion of hair is shaved before the procedure, but once it grows back, most of the scar is hidden, Dr. Richmon says.

Since the incision is so far away from the thyroid, robotic technology allows surgeons to access the gland, while at the same time avoiding a visible neck scar. The procedure takes about two hours and typically involves one night in the hospital. There is minimal pain, Dr. Richmon says.

“Patients are usually up eating, walking and talking the day of the surgery,” he says.

Women are more likely to suffer from thyroid problems than men. Watch for the following signs and symptoms of thyroid disorders:

  • Unexplained change in weight
  • Swelling or enlargement in the neck
  • Neck mass
  • Hair loss
  • Changes in heart rate
  • Changes in energy level or mood
  • Feeling too hot or too cold
  • Muscle weakness or trembling hand

For more information about robotic facelift thyroidectomy, call 410-955-6420.