What to Expect After Thyroid Surgery

What to Expect After Thyroid Surgery - James Wu, MD

What to Expect After Thyroid Surgery

Hello, I'm James Wu. I am an endocrine surgeon at UCLA's Endocrine Center. I would like to share with you what you can expect after thyroid surgery. Today, I'll discuss three things first: pain after thyroid surgery, how long you'll need to stay in the hospital, and what you can eat and do afterward.

Will I have pain after thyroidectomy surgery?

Most patients experience minor discomfort following thyroid surgery, with 90% effectively managing pain using Tylenol or Advil. To ensure comfort, we provide a prescription for stronger medication post-surgery. Thyroidectomy is performed under general anesthesia, necessitating a breathing tube and possibly resulting in a sore throat afterwards. Due to the extended neck position during surgery, some patients may feel soreness in neck or shoulder muscles. An injection at the front of the neck numbs the skin for added comfort, which may cause slight numbness in the earlobes post-surgery.

How long do you need to stay in the hospital?

Most patients undergoing thyroid surgery at our center can expect to have same-day surgery. Following the procedure, a brief observation period is required to ensure your well-being. Patients residing nearby with a support person staying overnight can return home the same day. For those living a bit further or alone, we recommend staying overnight at the hospital for discharge the following morning. Remember, arranging for someone to drive you home is essential for your comfort and safety.

What can you eat and do after thyroidectomy surgery?

Although it's safe to eat whatever you want after surgery, some patients may experience a sore throat due to the breathing tube. To enhance comfort, sticking to soft foods like juice, broth, or jello until the throat feels better is recommended. It's important not to drive until you can comfortably turn your neck from side to side for safety. Remember not to drive for at least 24 hours after taking narcotic pain medication. Two days post-surgery, you can shower as the dressing is waterproof. Feel free to resume regular activities as long as they do not strain the neck area, such as heavy lifting, to support proper wound healing. Your well-being is our priority during this recovery period.

Key Insights:

  • Pain management:
    The majority of patients experience minimal pain after thyroid surgery, and over-the-counter medication is typically sufficient. This highlights the success of the surgical procedure in minimizing postoperative discomfort.
  • Hospital stay considerations:
    The decision on the length of hospital stay depends on factors such as proximity to the hospital and availability of a caregiver at home. This allows for individualized care and ensures patient safety.
  • Diet recommendations:
    While there are no strict dietary restrictions after thyroid surgery, some patients may find it more comfortable to stick to softer foods initially, especially if they have a sore throat from the breathing tube. This promotes patient comfort during the recovery process.
  • Driving restrictions:
    Patients should not drive until they can comfortably turn their neck from side to side. This precaution is necessary to ensure road safety, as limited neck mobility can affect driving abilities.
  • Postoperative care:
    Showering is allowed two days after surgery, and the dressing is waterproof, allowing patients to maintain personal hygiene. This promotes physical well-being and helps patients feel more comfortable during the recovery period.
  • Resuming normal activities:
    Patients can generally resume their normal activities after thyroid surgery, but they should avoid heavy lifting to prevent strain on the surgical wound. This emphasizes the importance of gradually returning to regular routines while considering the healing process.

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