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Health Information Center

Thymectomy

Authors:
  • Amy Scholten, MPH
Publication Type:

Procedure

Thymectomy

(Removal of the Thymus Gland)

Definition

A thymectomy is surgery to remove the thymus gland. This gland is under the breastbone. It helps the immune system develop during childhood.

Thymus Gland.

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Reasons for Procedure

This surgery is done to treat:

  • Myasthenia gravis—a health issue that causes the thymus to act abnormally
  • Thyoma—a tumor in the thymus

Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:

  • Excess bleeding
  • Problems from anesthesia, such as wheezing or sore throat
  • Infection
  • Damage to nearby structures
  • Respiratory failure

Things that may raise the risk of problems are:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Long term health issues such as diabetes or obesity

What to Expect

Problems To Look Out For

Call your doctor if you are not getting better or you have:

  • Signs of infection, such as fever or chills
  • Redness, swelling, a lot of bleeding, or any discharge from the incision
  • Pain that you cannot control with medicine
  • Lasting nausea or vomiting

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.

RESOURCES:

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

References

  • Berrih-Aknin, S. and Le Panse, R. Thymectomy in myasthenia gravis: when, why, and how? The Lancet, 2019; 18(3): 225-226.
  • General information about thymoma and thymic cancers. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/types/thymoma/patient/thymoma-treatment-pdq.
  • Myasthenia gravis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/myasthenia-gravis.
  • Myasthenia gravis fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/myasthenia_gravis/detail_myasthenia_gravis.htm#84053153.

Contributors

  • Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated:
2022-12-01

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.