The Endocrine Surgery Program at Penn Medicine provides nationally recognized care and innovative services for diseases of the thyroid, parathyroid and adrenal glands.

In the last decade, we've performed over 2,500 surgeries, making us the leading endocrine surgery division in the region. Our team of endocrinologists, nephrologists, radiologists and pathologists provide access to the most advanced specialized techniques available in medicine.

Conditions That May Benefit from Endocrine Surgery

Our surgeons perform a range of endocrine procedures depending on your particular condition.

Adrenal Gland Tumors

The adrenal glands are part of your endocrine system and are located just above your kidneys. These two small glands produce hormones that regulate different bodily functions.

Tumors that form in the adrenal glands may be benign or malignant. An adrenalectomy is the surgical removal of one or both adrenal glands. If surgery is needed, a team of specialists in endocrinology, nephrology, and medical oncology collaborate to design the best plan of care for you.

There are two types of surgical techniques for the removal of the adrenal gland:

  • Laparoscopic adrenalectomy. This minimally invasive procedure involves removal of the adrenal gland laparoscopically.
  • Open adrenalectomy. This procedure involves removal of the adrenal gland through open surgery.

Hyperparathyroidism

Hyperparathyroidism is a condition that occurs when one of the four parathyroid glands produces excess hormones. Patients with hyperparathyroidism often require surgery, such as:

  • Minimally invasive parathyroidectomy (MIP). Typically performed as an outpatient surgery, this procedure involves the surgical removal of the affected parathyroid glands. A specialized x-ray is used to identify the exact location of the tumors, allowing your surgeon to precisely remove the gland involved using small incisions.
  • Parathyroidectomy. If the affected gland cannot be located with the use of specialized x-rays, but you have kidney failure or a history of kidney failure, a surgeon may perform this surgery to identify and remove the abnormal glands. He or she will leave a portion of a parathyroid gland intact, so you'll have normal parathyroid function following surgery. Although this is a traditional operation, general anesthetic is used for pain control and comfort, and some patients will require an inpatient stay in the hospital afterwards.

Thyroid Disorders

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ that sits at the base of the neck. The hormones produced by this gland influence almost all of the metabolic processes in your body. Thyroid disorders can range from small, harmless nodules that require no treatment to cancer of the thyroid gland requiring surgery.

Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid gland produces too much of the hormone thyroxine. This condition can accelerate your body's metabolism, causing sudden weight loss, a rapid or irregular heartbeat, nervousness or irritability, and sweating.

Goiter

Goiter is an abnormal enlargement of your thyroid gland. While it is often painless, a goiter may grow large enough to cause difficulty breathing and swallowing.

Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer occurs when cancer is found in the cells of the thyroid gland.

Thyroid Nodules

Thyroid nodules are small, solid or fluid-filled lumps that form within the thyroid gland. The majority of thyroid nodules are not serious and do not cause any symptoms. Thyroid cancer accounts for a very small percentage of thyroid nodules.

Types of Thyroid Surgery

If surgery is indicated as a treatment for hyperthyroidism, goiter, thyroid cancer or thyroid nodules, your surgeon will determine how much of the thyroid gland to remove and what type of thyroid surgery is best for you:

  • Thyroidectomy. This procedure involves the removal of the entire thyroid gland. It is typically performed to treat thyroid cancer, but it may also be performed to treat uncontrollable hyperthyroidism of goiter that is producing severe symptoms. Doctors will use general anesthesia, and patients usually stay in the hospital for one night following the procedure.
  • Thyroid Lobectomy. This procedure is used to remove one of the two thyroid lobes, leaving the other intact. A surgeon may perform it if there are nodules that cause symptoms or are worrisome for cancer, or if there's excessive hormone production like that associated with hyperthyroidism. A thyroid lobectomy involves general anesthesia, but is often performed as an outpatient procedure.
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