Thyroid surgery is relatively common throughout the United States, yet it can still be a stressful experience. Here is what to expect after thyroidectomy and tips to successfully recovery.
A thyroidectomy, or the surgical removal of the thyroid, is generally done when the thyroid is enlarged, affected by cancer or a noncancerous tumor, or hyperactive. You might have part of your thyroid removed or the entire organ taken out. If you have a complete thyroidectomy, you will need to take medication for the rest of your life. If part of it is left in place, you might or might not have to take medication afterward.
A thyroidectomy is a safe procedure in general, but there are a few complications to be on the lookout for. You’ll also need some time to recover and to adjust to life without your thyroid. Read on to learn about what to expect after thyroidectomy.
What Does the Procedure Entail?
During your thyroidectomy, you will be under general anesthesia, or asleep. There are a few different ways to do the actual removal. Your surgeon might make an incision in the front of your neck to remove it that way. Another technique is to go through the mouth to avoid making any incisions in the neck. And sometimes a combination of these methods is used and you’ll have smaller incisions on your neck.
Afterward, you will need to rest in a recovery room while the anesthesia wears off. Your throat might be sore, but this is usually due to the tube that goes in your throat during the surgery. You might also have a drain in your incision if you have one in your neck.
You will be able to eat and drink, and most people spend one night in the hospital before being released.
What Happens After I’m Released From the Hospital?
It’s important to know what to expect after thyroidectomy so you can prepare for when you leave the hospital. When you are done recovering in the hospital, which is usually only for one day, you’ll be released to go to either your home or to a recovery center like Pearl Recovery Retreat. It is normal to feel tired and for it to be uncomfortable to swallow and, in some cases, to talk.
You might still have drains in place, though these are often removed before you leave the hospital. If you still have yours, you should have a follow-up appointment to have them removed. Your sutures might need to be removed or they might absorb on their own after about a week.
You might have medication to take. If you’ve had your entire thyroid removed, you will need to take a synthetic thyroid hormone for the rest of your life. It can take some time for your doctor to establish the exact dose you need. You might also have painkillers, antibiotics, calcium supplements, or other medications. If you had to stop taking certain medications before your surgery, your doctor will let you know when you can start taking them again.
Tips for Recovery After Thyroidectomy
Knowing what to expect after thyroidectomy is critical to successful recovery. The main thing you will need to do after having your thyroid out is rest for a few days or up to a couple of weeks while you heal, and it’s best to have another adult nearby in case you need anything. Find a quiet place to rest where you won’t be disturbed. If you live in a busy household or if you would otherwise be all alone, a room at the Pearl Recovery Retreat & Wellness can provide both the peace you need and healthcare professionals in the vicinity to help your thyroidectomy recovery process.
During the first few days or weeks, you may find it difficult to swallow the foods you normally eat. Starting off with smoothies, yogurt, pudding, applesauce, ice cream, scrambled eggs, and other soft foods is a good way to obtain your energy without hurting your throat. At Pearl, we have dedicated chefs who prepare foods that are both healthy and easy to eat, so you won’t have to worry about what you’ll eat if you stay with us. If you are going to be recovering at home, consider having cool, soft foods in the refrigerator for the first few days.
You will need to get up and move around. Staying in bed for extended periods of time after surgery can exacerbate constipation and could even put you at risk for potentially deadly blood clots. Even if you’re feeling tired, you should walk around and be sure to get in some activity each day. The staff at Pearl Recovery Retreat will encourage you to get up and move around and will help you if necessary.
Take your medication as directed and return to your doctor for all follow-up appointments as scheduled. At Pearl, we provide transportation the day after surgery back to the clinic or hospital if you need to see your doctor. We can also help keep track of medications to be sure that you are taking them properly and at the right time.
Most of the time, people recover uneventfully after having a thyroidectomy. You might be able to return to work within a week if you don’t have a strenuous job; those with more active jobs might be advised to wait several weeks or longer. Within a few months, you should be feeling back to your normal self and should be able to do the activities you used to do before your surgery. Sometimes, however, complications might occur. Knowing what to expect after thyroidectomy can help you spot symptoms of surgery complications. Staying in a recovery center like Pearl gives you the peace of mind of having healthcare professionals within easy reach. If you are at home, however, here are some symptoms that should warrant a call for help:
- Sudden chest pain, trouble breathing, or passing out. This is something that requires a 911 call.
- Bleeding. Your incision might drain a little bit; that is normal. If the bleeding soaks through the bandage on them, however, or the incision comes open, you should call your doctor.
- Increased pain, pus, or other signs of infection. Your incision will be sore for several days, but it should generally get better each day. If things take a turn for the worse, if it looks dark red or infected, if it feels hot to the touch, or if you get a fever, you might have an infection. Call your doctor right away.
- Severe digestive complaints. It’s normal to have some constipation or to feel less hungry than usual for a few days after surgery. If you cannot eat or are vomiting or if you have not had a bowel movement in several days even after taking a prescribed laxative, it’s time to call your doctor.
Knowing what to expect after thyroidectomy can help you prepare mentally and physically for your surgery, and also assist in the recovery process. If you have questions about recuperating at Pearl Recovery Retreat after your thyroidectomy, please contact us!