How Long For Recovery After Thyroid Surgery?

Thyroid surgery is commonly done to treat thyroid disorders like cancer, thyroid enlargement or overactive thyroid. While thyroid surgery is performed in various ways depending on the cause and extent of severity, the after care and recovery period too varies. This article deals with recovery period after thyroid surgery.

The Result of Thyroid Surgery

The long-term result and recovery period after thyroid surgery depends on how much of the gland is removed.

In the partial thyroidectomy, only a part of the thyroid is removed and the remaining portion takes over its function. In this case, thyroid hormone therapy is not required.
In complete thyroidectomy the entire thyroid gland is removed. In this case, the body needs replacement of thyroid hormone to prevent complaints of an underactive thyroid. Such patients are advised to take a pill of synthetic thyroid hormone every day. The doctor takes the call to decide the dosage a person needs based on the blood test.

How Long For Recovery After Thyroid Surgery?

The thyroid is a gland present at the base of the neck, and appears like a butterfly, in shape. The thyroid gland produces hormones for regulation of metabolism. To treat the thyroid disorders such as cancer, a non-cancerous enlargement of thyroid or an overactive thyroid gland, thyroidectomy or thyroid surgery or removal of the gland is done. How much thyroid gland should be removed depends on the cause of thyroid surgery. In case the whole of the gland is removed during the surgery, the patient requires a daily treatment with thyroid hormone to replace its normal function. The recovery period after thyroid surgery in this case is different as it may take some more time to heal. The procedure is performed in a few hours.

After the surgery, the patient might experience sore throat and mild hoarseness which would go within a week or two. Painkiller medicine is given after the surgery to control the pain and discomfort. Taking care of the immediate symptoms help to fasten the recovery period after thyroid surgery.

The incised area is closed with absorbable sutures and surgical tape. Incision site should not be soaked in water and should be kept dry. The patients are advised to stay overnight in the hospital depending on the thyroid disease for which the surgery is performed. The patients usually spend two to six hours in the recovery room for observation. The patients are monitored to note any occurrences of swelling in the neck, which is an early sign of post-operative bleeding. This condition, although rare may require a repeat operation, otherwise the heal and recovery period after thyroid surgery may proceed normally.

The scar present at the incision site appears a bit swelled up and bruised. It goes off in a week after the procedure. If any significant swelling is noted around the scar after the surgery, the surgeon should be informed about it. The signs of swelling and other complaints determining the recovery period after thyroid surgery subside within six to eight weeks. However, for many complete healing may take few months. Patients can eat and drink normally immediately after the surgery.

When Can Patients Resume Normal Activity After Thyroid Surgery?

Depending on individual recovery after thyroid surgery, patients can go back to the normal activity within a few days but with certain limitations. Strenuous activity and lifting heavy weight should be avoided for a week. The neck muscles may feel stiff and there may be soreness present for a few days. It can be corrected by moving neck from side to side and rolling shoulder or following advice of physical therapists.

For most patients the recovery period after thyroid surgery ranges around one or 2 weeks. Driving is restricted for a week. Depending on the amount of thyroid tissue removed, the patient is put on thyroid hormone. The need for thyroid replacement, calcium and other nutritional supplements must be discussed with the doctor.

Risks Associated With Thyroid Surgery

Thyroidectomy is a safe procedure but like any other surgery, it carries the risk of few complications such as,

  • Bleeding from the site of the incision
  • Infection
  • Nerve damage which can lead to weak and hoarse voice
  • Airway obstruction because of bleeding
  • Damage to the parathyroid glands.

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