Surgical Options for the Treatment of Hyperthyroidism in the Cat

Flanders J.A.

J Feline Med Surg, 1999. 1(3): p.127-34.


Since the first description of feline hyperthyroidism in 1978, numerous treatment options for hyperthyroidism have been reported. Surgical removal of enlarged, autonomously functioning thyroid glands is one of the most commonly used treatment options. Affected cats must have a careful pre-operative evaluation to detect concurrent medical conditions such as renal disease or cardiomyopathy. Since more than 80% of hyperthyroid cats have neoplastic changes in both thyroid glands, bilateral thyroidectomy is necessary for treatment of the majority of hyperthyroid cats. Several different thyroidectomy techniques have been developed in an attempt to minimise potential post-operative complications associated with bilateral thyroidectomy such as hypocalcemia or recurrence of hyperthyroidism. Damage to or removal of all four parathyroid glands during bilateral thyroidectomy causes hypocalcemia, the most common post-operative complication. Recurrence of hyperthyroidism can occur months after initial thyroidectomy if residual adenomatous thyroid tissue is retained in the surgical site. The most effective surgical techniques for bilateral thyroidectomy involve preservation of at least one external parathyroid gland on the surface of the thyroid capsule. Additionally, the majority of the thyroid capsule must be removed to ensure that all neoplastic thyroid tissue is removed. The most recently described feline thyroidectomy techniques involve sequential removal of bilaterally affected thyroid glands. Staging a bilateral thyroidectomy allows time for ipsilateral parathyroid tissue to revascularise before the second thyroid gland is removed and the blood supply to the contralateral parathyroid glands is potentially interrupted. Thyroidectomy is a very effective treatment option for hyperthyroid cats. Surgical treatment of hyperthyroidism in cats offers permanent cure without chronic medical management. No specialised equipment other than standard surgical instrumentation and facilities are necessary. With practice, feline thyroidectomy can become a routine procedure in most veterinary hospitals.