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How To Recover From Thyroid Surgery

How Should I Be Evaluated Prior To The Operation

SURGERY SURVIVAL GUIDE// Tips to Recover from Thyroid Surgery

As for other operations, all patients considering thyroid surgery should be evaluated preoperatively with a thorough and detailed medical history and physical exam including cardiopulmonary evaluation. An electrocardiogram and a chest x-ray prior to surgery are often recommended for patients who are over 45 years of age or who are symptomatic from heart disease. Blood tests may be performed to determine if a bleeding disorder is present.

Importantly, any patient who has had a change in voice or who has had a previous neck operation and/or who has had a suspected invasive thyroid cancer should have their vocal cord function evaluated routinely before surgery. This is necessary to determine whether the recurrent laryngeal nerves that control the vocal cord muscles are functioning normally.

Finally, in rare cases, if medullary thyroid cancer is suspected, patients should be evaluated for endocrine tumors that occur as part of familial syndromes including adrenal tumors and enlarged parathyroid glands that produce excess parathyroid hormone .

Why It Is Done

Surgery is used to treat thyroid problems if:

  • Thyroid cancer is present or is suspected.
  • A non-cancerous nodule is large enough to cause problems with breathing or swallowing.
  • A fluid-filled nodule returns after being drained once or twice.
  • Hyperthyroidism cannot be treated with medicines or radioactive iodine.

Surgery is rarely used to treat hyperthyroidism. It may be used if the thyroid gland is so big that it makes swallowing or breathing difficult or thyroid cancer has been diagnosed or is suspected. Surgery also may be done if you are pregnant or cannot tolerate antithyroid medicines.

You may have all or part of your thyroid gland removed, depending on the reason for the surgery.

Some surgeons are now doing endoscopic thyroidectomies using several small incisions through which a tiny camera and instruments are passed.

Don’t Ignore Your Body’s Need Recover After Thyroidectomy

Many patients who shared their experiences with said that they expect to go back to living just the way they were prior to surgery. This raised one concern for Dr. Oltmann who mentioned that one of the most surprising things following her surgery was just how tired she felt.

I went back to work much quicker than I should have, Dr. Oltmann says. During the first full week post-surgery, I didnt have any energy reserve.

Most patients respond to treatment well and end up feeling just fine, says Dr. Chen. However, we do not yet have any way to determine who will bounce back fully, and who will remain tired, may gain weight, and will not feel better for a long time.

If you have a complete thyroidectomy, you wont go back to being the same right away, says Brittany. You WILL feel different for a while because your body has to adjust and it will take time for your doctor to get things properly regulated. That can be a shock if you go through the surgery thinking afterwards, it will all go back to the way it was.

Its important to realized that your body is using all your energy to heal, and unlike a lot of surgeries where pain limits your movement, you wont have the same cues to tell you to do less for a while.

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Recuperation Time And Restrictions

Most people are advised to take roughly two weeks off from work to recuperate, depending on their occupation. You should not drive as long as you continue to need pain medications, and some surgeons recommend abstaining from driving for the first week after surgery altogether.

You should also avoid any heavy lifting or strenuous activities for a few weeks. The excess activity could increase your chance of developing a hematoma or keep your wound from healing properly. Light housekeeping and walking are usually fine once you arrive home.

Will I Be Able To Lead A Normal Life After Surgery

Recovering From Thyroid Surgery

Yes. Once you have recovered from the effects of thyroid surgery, you will usually be able to do anything that you could do prior to surgery. Some patients become hypothyroid following thyroid surgery, requiring treatment with thyroid hormone . This is especially true if you had your whole thyroid gland removed. Generally, you will be started on thyroid hormone the day after surgery, even if there are plans for treatment with radioactive iodine.

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What Can I Expect After My Thyroidectomy

Knowing what to expect can help make your road to recovery after a thyroidectomy as smooth as possible.

How long will it take to recover?

You will stay in the recovery room after surgery until you are alert, breathing effectively, and your vital signs are stable. You may have a if a tube was placed in your windpipe during surgery. This is usually temporary, but tell your care team if you are uncomfortable.

You may go home on the same day if you are recovering well and can swallow liquids. A hospital stay of one to two days may be required in some cases.

Recovery after surgery is a gradual process. Recovery time varies depending on the procedure, type of anesthesia, your general health, age, and other factors. Full recovery takes two to four weeks.

Will I feel pain?

Pain control is important for healing and a smooth recovery. There will be discomfort after your surgery. Your doctor will treat your pain so you are comfortable and can get the rest you need. Call your doctor if your pain gets worse or changes because it may be a sign of a complication.

When should I call my doctor?

It is important to keep your follow-up appointments after a thyroidectomy. Contact your doctor for questions and concerns between appointments. Call your doctor right away or seek immediate medical care if you have:

  • Bleeding

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Is Thyroidectomy A Major Operation

Though a thyroidectomy is an extensive procedure, the recovery time is typically very short. Plus, most patients report very little discomfort after surgery. Immediately after surgery, youll be able to function normally. And even though the incision site is in the front of the neck, youll be able to eat and talk.27 2014 .

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What Will Be My Physical Restrictions Following Surgery

Most surgeons prefer that patients limit extreme physical activities following surgery for a few days or weeks. This is primarily to reduce the risk of a postoperative neck hematoma and breaking of stitches in the wound closure. These limitations are brief, usually followed by a quick transition back to unrestricted activity. Normal activity can begin on the first postoperative day. Vigorous sports, such as swimming, and activities that include heavy lifting should be delayed for at least ten days to 2 weeks.

Gain Comfort Of Others Already Treated For Thyroid Cancer

Recovering From Thyroid Surgery

However, Dr. Chen says that as a surgeon, her ability to talk effectively about many aspects of recovery is limited. Therefore, having a good endocrinologist is the best person to look to explain what to expect after the surgical experience.

She shares this recent example: Just yesterday, I had a patient asking me about what his levothyroxine dosage would be after surgery. I explained that I would give him an amount that would be based on his weight to start but that his endocrinologist would be the one tweaking the amount to get is right going forward.

Sometimes, doctors and even patients will talk about thyroid cancer as the good cancer. This happens because the treatment is straightforward and the outcomes and your prognosis are often uncomplicated and good. Yet, you are likely to be focused more on the cancer than on the good, says Rick.

The worry that comes from any news of cancer, is likely to leave you feeling bad, sad, and scared, he adds. Having a therapist has helped Rick deal with fears as well as adjusting to his life following the surgeries as his new normal.

She adds that she feels fortunate that she had professional knowledge and some experience in treating patients when she was then faced with a diagnosis of thyroid cancer. The one thing that helped the most, she says, was meeting with a former patient who had already gone through surgery and recovery after her diagnosis but before she had surgery.

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Follow Up With Your Surgeon

After youve been discharged from the hospital, you might feel like you no longer need to meet with your surgeon. However, even if you do feel better, its important to continue to attend your follow up appointments. Your surgeon may spot complications or other issues that you dont realize are occurring. Rather than just responding to pain or a lack thereof, your surgeon can specify whats happening during your recovery period, and adjust your recovery plan to address it.

How Long Does It Take To Feel Better After Thyroid Surgery

Do note that your voice may also sound hoarse or weak, and you may also experience slight complications when chewing or swallowing food. You may also notice slight swelling or bruising around the incision area.

This, however, shouldnt bother you since the effects will most probably resolve between 3 and 4 months. However, if the swelling is severe or comes with a lot of discomforts, youll need to immediately let your surgeon know as that could be a red flag for infection.

Unless the procedure caused permanent complications with speaking, chewing, or swallowing, the complications might take up to one year to resolve. Most people need just 1 to 2 weeks to feel better, so it may also take you between 7-14 days to feel better after your thyroid surgery.

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Types Of Thyroid Disorders

Thereare a couple of reasons for thyroid removalsurgery. Oursurgeon will can conclude, subsequent to thinking about a scope of variables,including the state of the thyroid and an individuals general health.

Followingare the types of thyroid removal surgery which include:

  • Hemithyroidectomy, or lobectomy. This includes eliminating one lobe of the thyroid. Our surgeon may suggest this medical procedure if a nodule or low risk thyroid cancer is restricted aside of the thyroid.
  • Isthmusectomy: This medical procedure eliminates the isthmus, a bit of tissue that associates the two lobes of the thyroid. Small tumors on the isthmus may just require an isthmusectomy.
  • Total thyroidectomy: This includes eliminating the whole thyroid gland. In few instances of thyroid cancer, respective thyroid nodule, and Graves disease require a total thyroidectomy.

What Is The Recovery Like After Thyroid Surgery

5 Simple Tips for Quick Recovery After Thyroid Surgery ...
  • Immediately after surgery you will be sleepy for the first few hours
  • You will be nursed with the head and neck supported to reduce swelling and strain on the neck
  • Your nurse will show you how to do breathing and coughing exercises to reduce the risk of developing a chest infection
  • An IV line will provide fluid until you are able to drink
  • Most people recover reasonably quickly from thyroid surgery

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What To Expect After The Operation


You will have one scar, 3-4 inches across, along your collar line. This will run horizontally along the natural lines of the skin in your neck. After a few weeks it should be healing well, and after 12 months or so it will hardly be visible.


With thyroid surgery, many treatment centres now use skin clips on the outside of the neck instead of stitches. You may have your clips removed 2-3 days after your operation, before you leave hospital, or you may have them removed at around 5-6 days. In this case, they will be removed be your GP or practice nurse. A small drain will be attached to your wound to prevent fluid building up. This will be removed after 2-3 days.


You do not need to keep the wound covered with a dressing. Exposure to the air will help the wound to heal more quickly. You can wash as normal after the clips have been removed, but take care to pat the wound dry gently.


Tiredness and feeling emotional


Painkillers may well cause constipation, so its important to get plenty of fibre in your diet while you are recovering. Fresh fruit and vegetables will help to keep your bowels moving regularly.

Thyroid Surgery Frequently Asked Questions

How long will I be hospitalized?

Most patients come to the hospital on the morning of their surgery and the majority of patients go home the same day after a 4 hour observation period in the recovery room.

What type of anesthesia will I have?

Patients will receive general anesthesia. With this type of anesthesia, you are completely asleep during the operation, and you will have a breathing tube placed temporarily to protect your airway and lungs.

Will I have a scar?

Yes. All surgery causes scarring, and how the patient heals the scar is very much dependent on the individual. However, there are some techniques that surgeons use to minimize scarring. These techniques include: a smaller incision size, careful incision placement, and using hypoallergenic suture material to avoid inflammation. Columbia Thyroid Center surgeons make every effort to place the incision in a natural skin line which acts like camouflage. The incision will blend into the skin line and once the redness fades away it is essentially invisible. As a general rule, you should not have a noticeable scar after six months. See Scar Gallery ยป.

Will I have pain after the operation?

When will I know the findings from the surgery?

During the operation, your surgeon may consult with the pathologist who will provide a preliminary diagnosis. However, the final pathology report requires careful study of your tissue specimen. Therefore, the final report is usually not available until about 1 week after the operation.

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Within 30 Days Of Your Surgery

Presurgical Testing

Before your surgery, youll have an appointment for presurgical testing . The date, time, and location will be printed on the appointment reminder from your surgeons office. Its helpful to bring the following things to your PST appointment:

  • A list of all the medications youre taking, including prescription and over-the-counter medications, patches, and creams.
  • Results of any tests done outside of MSK, such as a cardiac stress test, echocardiogram, or carotid doppler study.
  • The name and telephone number of your healthcare provider.

You can eat and take your usual medications the day of your appointment.

During your PST appointment, youll meet with a nurse practitioner . They work closely with anesthesiology staff . Your NP will review your medical and surgical history with you. You may have tests, such as an electrocardiogram to check your heart rhythm, a chest x-ray, blood tests, and any other tests needed to plan your care. Your NP may also recommend that you see other healthcare providers.

Your NP will talk with you about which medications you should take the morning of your surgery.

Identify your caregiver

Your caregiver plays an important role in your care. Before your surgery, you and your caregiver will learn about your surgery from your healthcare providers. After your surgery, your caregiver will take you home when youre discharged from the hospital. Theyll also help you care for yourself at home.

For caregivers


What To Expect After Thyroid Surgery

Thyroid surgery recovery

After thyroid surgery, you will probably stay in hospital for one or two nights to recover from surgery. Your neck wound will be closed with stitches, adhesive strips or small clips.

Your nursing team will talk to you about how to care for your surgical wound site once you go home to prevent it becoming infected. The surgeon may arrange blood tests to check on your recovery.

Most people who have thyroid surgery will feel better within 12 weeks, but recovery may take longer for some people.

For more on this, see What to expect after thyroid cancer.

Learn more about:

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Start With An Experienced Surgeon

Your recovery process starts before your surgery even begins. When looking for a surgeon to carry out your parathyroid surgery, look for the most experienced one in your area. Generally, you should look for a surgeon that conducts a minimum of 50 parathyroid surgeries per year and has conducted more than 500 in the course of their career. This ensures that your surgeon is capable and skilled. An experienced surgery will make more precise incisions and be more careful with your surrounding tissues and glands. When your surgery is carried out by a more experienced surgeon, youll recover more quickly.

A Change In Thyroid Hormones

If your whole thyroid gland has been removed, you will need to take tablets to replace the hormones that your thyroid would normally make. The thyroid hormones are necessary to keep your body processes going at the right rate. This is called your metabolism. Without thyroid hormones, you feel extremely tired and lacking in energy.

A tablet called thyroxine replaces the hormones. You take this tablet every day for the rest of your life. You have regular blood tests to check the hormone levels in your blood. Your doctor may change the dose of your tablet if your hormone levels are too high or too low.

If you have had part of your thyroid gland removed, the remaining gland usually makes all the hormone you need. But some people might need to take thyroxine tablets. You have blood tests to check for this.

These hormone tablets may help to stop the cancer from coming back in follicular and papillary thyroid cancer. They stop your body from producing another hormone called thyroid stimulating hormone . TSH can help these types of thyroid cancer cells to grow.

Taking thyroxine every day won’t stop you from doing the daily activities you were doing before your surgery.

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