Thymectomy is the removal of the thymus, a gland which is part of the body’s immune system located in front of the heart, behind the breast bone and in between the lungs. It is responsible for fighting against foreign substances, but enlarges in some people and contributes to the development of muscle weakness (myasthenia gravis). Myasthenia gravis can be treated by removing the thymus. This has no effect on the immune system.
Benefits in removing the thymus reduce the weakness in muscles and help in the full recovery from the illness.
People who are recommended to undergo this procedure should be under 60 years of age with moderate to severe cases of myasthenia gravis. People with mild muscle weakness may be advised to undergo thymectomy if it affects swallowing and breathing, but not so much with people who have weakness in the eye muscle.
Thymectomy is also advised if a mass is found in the thymus (thymoma).
Approaches to this procedure have three different variations:
Complications associated with this procedure include:
What to expect
Before performing the procedure, certain protocols need to be accomplished. Your clinical records will be reviewed and you will be ordered to undergo complete physical exam. Certain tests will be ordered such as:
The procedure will be discussed with you, giving you surgical options, possible complications and the results.
If you are taking medications, you may be asked to stop or change the dose of the drug. Intake of foods and fluids is restricted 6-8 hours before the surgery.