Background: The role of minimally invasive thyroid surgery (MITS) is currently in evolution. The aim of this study is to compare the outcomes of MITS using the direct approach through a lateral incision with conventional hemithyroidectomy (CHT) for the management of atypical thyroid nodules. Methods: A prospective, single-blinded, randomized controlled trial involving patients presenting with atypical thyroid nodules of 3-cm diameter or less was performed. Patients were randomized to MITS through a lateral 2.5-cm incision or CHT through a traditional 5- to 6-cm cervicotomy. Pain was measured using a 7-point visual analog scale on the 1st and 10th postoperative days. Serum C-reactive protein was measured on postoperative days 1 and 10. Satisfaction with cosmetic outcome was measured at 3 months. Results: One-hundred patients were randomized to undergo MITS or CHT. The 2 groups were equivalent in terms of age and thyroid nodule size. Mean operative times were longer for the MITS group (56 vs 46 min, P < .001). Mean pain scores were less in the MITS group on the 1st postoperative day (2.67 vs 3.43, P = .032). Pain scores at 10 days were equivalent (1.5 vs 1.8, P = .36). Serum C-reactive protein levels were equivalent postoperatively. At 3 months, patients undergoing MITS reported a greater mean cosmetic satisfaction score (6.3 vs 5.0, P = .002). Incision lengths measured at 3 months were 2.6 cm for MITS and 5.4 cm for CHT group, P < .001. Conclusion: In the management of small, atypical thyroid nodules, MITS through a direct lateral approach results in less early postoperative pain and superior cosmetic results when compared with conventional thyroidectomy.