What happens after thyroid surgery?

During the first 24 hours:

After surgery, you may have a drain (tiny piece of plastic tubing), which prevents fluid and blood from building up in the wound. This is removed after the fluid accumulation has stabilized, usually within 24 hours after surgery. Most patients are discharged later the same day or the next day. Complications are rare but may include:

  • •Bleeding
  • •Bleeding under the skin that rarely can cause shortness of breath, requiring immediate medical evaluation
  • •A hoarse voice
  • •Difficulty swallowing
  • •Numbness of the skin on the neck
  • •Vocal cord paralysis•
  • Low blood calcium

At home:

Following the procedure, if it is determined that you need to take any medication, your surgeon will discuss this with you prior to your discharge. Medications may include:

  • •Thyroid hormone replacement
  • •Calcium and/or vitamin D replacement

Some symptoms may not become evident for two or three days after surgery. If you experience any of the following, call your surgeon or seek medical attention:

  • •Numbness and tingling around the lips and hands
  • •Increasing pain
  • •Fever
  • •Swelling
  • •Wound discharge
  • Shortness of breath

If a malignancy is identified, thyroid replacement medication may be withheld for several weeks. This allows a radioactive scan to better detect any remaining microscopic thyroid tissue, or spread of malignant cells to lymph nodes or other sites in the body.

© 2016 American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery

There is good news if thyroid surgery becomes necessary. Over the last decade there have been major advances in the way thyroid surgery is performed. Improvements in technologies and techniques have now made thyroid surgery very safe, effective and relatively easy to recover from.

Different types of thyroid surgery are now available to patients, including minimally invasive procedures that cause less pain, allow easier recoveries, and result in smaller incisions.

Based on the type of disease, experience of the doctor and preferences of the patient, an optimal surgery can be chosen.

© 2016 American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery

The most important step before undergoing thyroid surgery is to be certain that the planned surgery is appropriate for the diagnosis. In order to properly treat the disease, sometimes a partial or total thyroidectomy is necessary and in some patients lymph nodes also need to be removed during the surgery.

To determine the proper surgery, physicians may order blood tests and radiology studies, including an ultrasound or CT scan. Also, some patients may be asked to see their primary care doctor to make sure that their overall health is good enough to have surgery.

© 2016 American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery