A thymectomy is surgery to remove the thymus gland. This gland is under the breastbone. It helps the immune system to develop during childhood.
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This surgery is done to treat:
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
Things that may raise the risk of problems are:
The surgical team may meet with you to talk about:
General anesthesia will be used. You will be asleep.
The surgery may be done in one of three ways:
About 1 to 3 hours
Pain and swelling are common in the first 1 to 2 weeks. Medicine and home care can help.
The usual length of stay is 1 to 3 days. You may need to stay longer if you have problems.
The staff may give you pain medicines. During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to lower your risk of infection, such as:
There are also steps you can take to lower your risk of infection, such as:
The recovery time depends on the type of surgery. It may take 1 to 2 weeks or as long as 3 months. Physical activity will be limited during this time. You will need to delay return to work.
Call your doctor if you are not getting better or you have:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America, Inc.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Berrih-Aknin S, 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. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/types/thymoma/patient/thymoma-treatment-pdq. Accessed January 13, 2021.
Myasthenia gravis. EBSCO DynaMed website. https://www.dynamed.com/condition/myasthenia-gravis. Accessed January 13, 2021.
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. Accessed January 13, 2021.
Last reviewed February 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD Last Updated: 1/13/2021