The thyroid gland plays an important role in the body. It secretes essential hormones that aid in every single process, influencing the cells’ metabolism. For this reason, thyroid disorders can cause uncomfortable symptoms. Many thyroid conditions can be easily treated with medications or by making lifestyle adjustments. However, more severe thyroid conditions, such as thyroid cancer, or those that do not respond to medications, might warrant the need for thyroid surgery. Surgery to remove the thyroid is a safe and effective treatment for thyroid disorders.
Thyroidectomies are considered routine surgery, meaning they’re commonly performed and come with minimal risks. Sometimes full or partial removal of the thyroid is recommended. However, as with any surgery, there are some risks that come with thyroid gland removal. For that reason, it is important to find a skilled physician (can you add a link to “skilled endocrine surgeon” instead?) to help guide your thyroid treatment and perform your surgery.
This article will provide information regarding what happens to the body after a thyroidectomy.
Recovery After Thyroid Surgery
Thyroid removal surgery can be performed in a number of different ways. Some thyroid surgery techniques are less invasive and leave smaller scars. You’ll be placed under anesthesia for thyroid surgery and your doctor will place a small incision to remove your thyroid.
Because thyroidectomies are fairly routine procedures, you likely will not have to stay at the hospital overnight following surgery. Every surgery places stress on the body and although thyroidectomies cause minimal pain and are usually a quick recovery, it is important to take recovery seriously. You may experience a sore throat, hoarseness, neck pain, or difficulty swallowing, but these symptoms are usually temporary.
Most patients are able to go home the same day as surgery and are able to resume daily activities, but be advised to avoid physical activity (such as lifting heavy objects) and to rest in the days following surgery.
Frequently Prescribed Medication
You may experience some discomfort and mild pain in your neck area when swallowing and talking at the incision site, which can usually be managed with over-the-counter pain medications but in some cases, your doctor may prescribe stronger medication, if needed. The pain usually only lasts about three to five days following surgery. If your pain levels suddenly start to worsen, this is likely a sign of infection and warrants immediate medical attention.
It is not uncommon for calcium levels to change following thyroid surgery due to potential irritation of the parathyroid glands and a lack of the hormone calcitonin. Your doctor will want to test your calcium levels following surgery and will likely prescribe a calcium supplementation to compensate for this loss. Symptoms of low calcium levels involve muscle cramps and tingling in the hands and feet. You may also be prescribed a vitamin D supplement to help with calcium absorption. You may likely also have to take thyroid hormone replacement medications following surgery. This is because your body cannot function properly without thyroid hormones and once the gland is removed, your body can no longer make the hormones on its own.
Caring for the Incision Site
The main area of your body where you’ll experience pain and discomfort is the incision site. Depending on your doctor’s approach to surgery, you may have multiple small incisions or one larger one. The incision will be closed with sutures or surgical glue. You’ll have a light bandage covering the area. You’ll be instructed to keep the area clean and dry after the procedure for about 48 hours, and your surgeon will let you know when you no longer need to cover the incision with bandages. It is most important to monitor the incision site for any signs of infection, such as redness, excessive pain and swelling. Follow your doctor’s specific instructions for incision site care.
Returning to Normal Activities
Typically, patients return to their normal activities a few days or about a week after thyroid surgery. Any strenuous activities that involve heavy lifting should be avoided for two weeks or until your doctor has cleared you to return to such activities.
Specialty Care in Orlando, Florida
Staying healthy has never been more important. If you’re preparing to have the surgical removal of your thyroid performed or if you are currently recovering, proper follow-up care is incredibly important. Finding a skilled physician to perform your surgery will make all the difference.
After you have your thyroid removed, you’ll have to take thyroid hormones in the form of medication for the rest of your life. It will probably take some time to figure out the dosing, so having an experienced endocrinologist on board will help make this transition happen smoothly.
At UCF Health, our endocrinology services use integrated treatment to find a unique plan for every patient. Our endocrinology specialists are always working hard to find the best treatment options for their patients. We know that thyroid issues can be scary and surgery can be even scarier–we’re here to help you through the process. Schedule your visit today.