Background: The historical aspects of the pathophysiology and treatment of Graves' disease are briefly discussed in this paper. Materials and methods: The three treatment modalities of Graves' disease are anti-thyroid drug therapy, radioactive iodine therapy, and surgery. Although the majority of patients with Graves' disease in the U.S. are treated with radioactive iodine, surgery still plays an important role when patients cannot tolerate anti-thyroid drug therapy, when medical treatment is rejected by patients, or when surgery is deemed the fastest and safest route in managing the patient. Conclusions: The indications for surgical management of Graves' disease are discussed with emphasis on available data supporting the extent of thyroid resection based on the incidences of hypothyroidism, recurrence of hyperthyroidism, recurrent laryngeal nerve injury and hypoparathyroidism. © 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.