Medical Minute: 10/25/2010

By: CBS Email
By: CBS Email

46-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," says Walker.

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," says Dr. David Terris from the Medical College of Georgia.

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 doctor David Terris believes a different entry point works even better. It's similar to a face lift.

"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."

The so-called "face lift approach" can mean less pain, fewer complications, and for La Vallia, 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."

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

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