Thymectomy refers to removal of the thymus gland. Indications for the procedure include thymomas (tumors of the thymus gland), thymic cysts, and myasthenia gravis.
Thymomas are one of the most common tumors in the anterior mediastinum. About 50% of patients with thymomas have myasthenia gravis, while of all patients with myasthenia gravis only about 20% have a thymoma. Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune disease causing voluntary muscle weakness. It is caused by antibodies to the acetycholince receptor of the motor end plate. Thymectomy improves the symptoms in 80-90% of patients with myasthenia gravis.
Thymectomy can be performed minimally invasively using a video assisted or Robotic assisted approach. These approaches significantly reduce the hospital stay to 1-2 days, and allow faster recovery and return to work. A median sternotomy approach is recommended for patients with tumors of the thymus gland and patients usually have a 4-5 day hospital stay.