Thyroid Surgery, Recovery and Aftercare
Thyroid surgery recovery and correct aftercare information is your greatest ally on your road to recovery.
For example, what can you expect during your recuperation? What are
possible complications and/or side effects? How should you treat the
Let’s do a preemptive walk-through, answer your questions to help eliminate stress, which is a consequence of the unknown.
What to expect during Thyroid Surgery Recovery
When you wake-up following thyroid cancer
surgery, it’s likely your brain will still be foggy. Therefore, it’s
important to have a trusted friend or family member standing by to
record pertinent details about your thyroid surgery recovery period.
The first day following surgery, your doctor will probably keep you
in the hospital and order bed rest. Your nurse will continue to monitor
your breathing and vital signs. You’ll likely get your “meals”
intravenously, as it’s painful to swallow.
Unless there are unlikely complications, you will be discharged the
second day after surgery. Your doctor will explain aftercare
instructions, including how to treat your surgical incision. You’ll go
home on a liquid diet, until you can tolerate swallowing. Then you can
eat soft foods.
You can expect to be in pain. Your doctor should give you a
prescription for pain meds. Take them! What many people don’t understand
about pain is that it should be managed. Don’t try to soldier until
your pain level is unbearable.
How to Treat your Surgical Incision
Taking proper care of your incision is a significant part of thyroid surgery recovery. The incision is coated so that you can take a bath or shower, just be sure not to immerse the area in water.
In about one week, the coating should turn white and peel off. At
this point, you can apply vitamin E, cocoa butter or the prescription
gel, Mederma to the scarred area. Any of these should soothe the itch
and help your body heal the scar.
A slight bruising or swelling surrounding the scar is normal, however
in the event of considerable swelling, contact your surgeon. This might
Common side-effects after surgery:
- Swallowing Pain – Your throat is raw due to the
breathing tube that was inserted during and/or post-surgery. This should
resolve in several days. In the meantime, an over-the-counter NSAID,
such as Ibuprofen, will help subdue swallowing pain.
- Aggravated Windpipe – For several days
post-surgery, you might feel like something is continuously stuck in
your throat. This side-effect is a result of the breathing tube
aggravating your windpipe.
- Voice Fatigue – For a few months post-surgery, you may feel hoarse and experience sore throats.
- Tense and Tender Neck – Holding your head in the
same position will create a tense and tender neck. Gentle stretches and
range of motion movements will ease muscle tension and stiffness.
Possible long-term complications:
Vocal Cord Paralysis – When nerve damage is sustained due to thyroid cancer
or its resultant surgery, nerve impulses to the larynx are
intermittent. The vocal cord muscle can be temporarily paralyzed. If
this happens, you would have difficulty speaking, possibly breathing.
Voice therapy is standard treatment.
If the parathyroid glands (glands that manage calcium and phosphorous
levels) were severely damaged during surgery, this could lead to:
- Hypoparathyroidism – reduction in amount of parathyroid hormones in blood.
- Hypocalcaemia – reduction of parathyroid hormones resulting in extremely low levels of calcium in the body.
The most common symptom of Hypoparathyroidism is tetany, which is spasms of facial, hand, arm, throat and occasionally the feet muscles. Rarely, seizures occur.
Initial signs are tingling lips or fingers and/or muscle cramping. If this occurs during your thyroid surgery recovery, consult your doctor.
Candidiasis (yeast infection) of mouth, vagina, finger and/or toenails may also occur. Hair loss and dry skin are possible.
As a rule, Hypocalcaemia will cease about 7-10 days following surgery, after treatment with calcium supplements.
Be Gentle with Yourself…
your doctor orders, take good care of your incision and be alert for any
complications during thyroid surgery recovery. Be gentle with yourself
and let your remarkable body heal itself.