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Your thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland beneath your Adam’s apple. This gland helps to control your body’s metabolism, or how your body works. It makes hormones that travel through the blood to other parts of your body. Thyroid hormones tell the body how fast to work and use energy.

When you are healthy, your thyroid works like an air conditioner, cycling on and off. When there is enough thyroid hormone in the blood, it turns off. When the body needs more hormones, it turns back on. 

Sometimes the thyroid works too well, and doesn’t turn off when it should. This is called hyperthyroidism. Your doctor may suggest surgery to treat it. Other reasons for surgery are for treatment of thyroid cancer or to remove thyroid nodules.

Surgery

All or part of your thyroid will be removed. The wound is 1-3 inches long. The incision follows the fold of the skin on your neck.  During the 1-3 hour surgery, you will be under general anesthesia. You will go home the same day or stay one night in the hospital.

How will I feel after Surgery?  

Your throat may be sore when you swallow. This is normal. This can last 1-2 days. 

You may feel like you have a lump in your throat when you swallow. This will get better after a few days, but can last up to 6-8 weeks after surgery.

Your voice may be hoarse or you may feel that your voice gets tired. These changes can last for 1-2 weeks.

The back of your neck may be sore from the position of your head during surgery. It may feel better to use 1-2 pillows in bed. Using a heating pad on the back of your neck might also help.

Sometimes patients feel a pulling in the neck muscles. This will get better in 3-4 weeks. 

The parathyroid glands are four small glands near the thyroid. They control blood calcium. If your whole thyroid is removed, these four glands may not work right away. Your blood calcium may be low. If you have numbness and tingling in your face, lips, fingertips, or toes, chew 4 - Tums® 500 mg each (2000 mg of calcium carbonate). The numbness and tingling should go away in 30 minutes. If numbness and tingling do not go away after 30 minutes, chew more Tums® 2000mg. If the symptoms do not go away 30 minutes after the second dose of Tums®, please call us and take a third dose of Tums 2000mg.

Calcium and prescription pain pills can be constipating. To prevent this problem, you may want to take a stool softener each day that you use prescription pain pills and until you have your first bowel movement after your surgery. You may want to start with Peri-Colace®. Take Peri-Colace® (docusate sodium 50 mg; sennosides 8.6 mg) two tablets, one to two times a day as needed for constipation. Follow the package directions.  

If your thyroid was removed due to cancer, more treatment may be needed.

How do I care for my wound?

Your wound is closed with glue. If you have Steri-strips (pieces of tape) covering the incision, leave the tape on until your next doctor visit. Curled tape edges may be trimmed with small scissors. Keep the wound clean and dry. The glue is waterproof. It is OK to shower. 

Look at your wound daily, check for signs of an infection.

  • Spreading redness or swelling

  • Foul-smelling drainage or pus

  • A fever (more than 101° F by mouth)

What about pain?

Expect that your wound will be tender. You will have prescription pain pills to use at home. You may take Tylenol® instead of the prescription pain pills. You can also use an ice pack to the incision area which can help reduce both pain and swelling. You can start taking ibuprofen 24 hours after surgery. 

When can I eat?

You can eat your normal diet when you get home. If your throat is still sore, try cold, soft foods.

When can I take a bath?

You can shower anytime. No swimming or soaking in water for 14 days.

When can I drive?

You can drive when you are not taking prescription pain medicine and when you can easily turn your head from side to side.

When can I exercise?

Light exercise is fine.  Avoid strenuous exercise for the first week after surgery. Avoid straining or extreme bending of your neck. Do not lift more than 20 pounds the first week.

When can I return to work?

You can return to work whenever you feel up to it. Most people return to work in one week. If your job requires regular heavy lifting, you may require 2 weeks off. Please discuss this with your surgeon.

When should I get help?

  • This is rare, but if you have trouble breathing, a sudden swelling in your throat, or cannot swallow, Call 911.

  • Numbness or tingling in your fingertips, face, lips, or toes that does not go away after two extra doses of Tums®. 

  • Pain that does not get better with narcotic pain pills.

  • Signs of infection like spreading redness or swelling, foul-smelling drainage or pus

  • Temperature greater than 101°F. 

  • Any other symptoms that concern you. 

How do I contact the doctor if I do not have an emergency?

  • If your surgery was at UW Hospital and Clinics call (608) 263-7502. This is a 24-hour number. 

  • If your surgery was at The American Center call (608) 440-6300. This is a 24-hour number.

  • Call UW Health Toll free at: 1-800-323-8942.  Ask the operator to transfer you to the facility where you had your surgery.

  • If your surgery was at Meriter or Madison Surgery Center call (608) 287-2100. This is a 24-hour number.