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What happens after thyroid surgery?

During the first 24 hours:

After surgery, you may have a drain (tiny piece of plastic tubing), which prevents fluid and blood from building up in the wound. This is removed after the fluid accumulation has stabilized, usually within 24 hours after surgery. Most patients are discharged later the same day or the next day. Complications are rare but may include:

  • •Bleeding
  • •Bleeding under the skin that rarely can cause shortness of breath, requiring immediate medical evaluation
  • •A hoarse voice
  • •Difficulty swallowing
  • •Numbness of the skin on the neck
  • •Vocal cord paralysis•
  • Low blood calcium

At home:

Following the procedure, if it is determined that you need to take any medication, your surgeon will discuss this with you prior to your discharge. Medications may include:

  • •Thyroid hormone replacement
  • •Calcium and/or vitamin D replacement

Some symptoms may not become evident for two or three days after surgery. If you experience any of the following, call your surgeon or seek medical attention:

  • •Numbness and tingling around the lips and hands
  • •Increasing pain
  • •Fever
  • •Swelling
  • •Wound discharge
  • Shortness of breath

If a malignancy is identified, thyroid replacement medication may be withheld for several weeks. This allows a radioactive scan to better detect any remaining microscopic thyroid tissue, or spread of malignant cells to lymph nodes or other sites in the body.

There is good news if thyroid surgery becomes necessary. Over the last decade there have been major advances in the way thyroid surgery is performed. Improvements in technologies and techniques have now made thyroid surgery very safe, effective and relatively easy to recover from.

Different types of thyroid surgery are now available to patients, including minimally invasive procedures that cause less pain, allow easier recoveries, and result in smaller incisions.

Based on the type of disease, experience of the doctor and preferences of the patient, an optimal surgery can be chosen.

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck. It produces thyroid hormone, which controls our bodies’ overall metabolism. Diseases of thyroid, whether functional (hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism) or structural (nodule, goiter, cancer) occur very commonly.

A nodule is an area of abnormal growth within the thyroid gland. Some people have a single nodule while others have multiple nodules within the gland. Thyroid nodules, which are particularly common in women, can be tiny to very large in size.

Most thyroid nodules are non-cancerous, do not cause symptoms and do not need any treatment. However, in some cases because of the size, appearance (on radiology tests) or symptoms caused by the nodule further evaluation and treatment is needed.

Some nodules are cancers and need therapy. Other nodules are big enough to cause a goiter, leading to symptoms like difficulty swallowing or breathing. In some cases the nodule can be overactive, making too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism). The best treatment option is based on the type of nodule and the preferences of the patient. In some cases thyroid surgery is necessary.

The most important step before undergoing thyroid surgery is to be certain that the planned surgery is appropriate for the diagnosis. In order to properly treat the disease, sometimes a partial or total thyroidectomy is necessary and in some patients lymph nodes also need to be removed during the surgery.

To determine the proper surgery, physicians may order blood tests and radiology studies, including an ultrasound or CT scan. Also, some patients may be asked to see their primary care doctor to make sure that their overall health is good enough to have surgery.

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck. It produces thyroid hormone, which controls our bodies’ overall metabolism.

Thyroid cancer is very common, particularly in women. It is now one of the most common cancers found in women. In most patients it does not cause any symptoms, though it sometimes can lead to difficulty swallowing, voice changes or a lump in the neck. Often thyroid cancers are found within nodules that are either felt by the patient or their doctor. These nodules are also frequently found incidentally, when the patient has a radiology test not related to the thyroid. A biopsy may be performed based on physical exam and radiographic findings. In some patients, a biopsy may show a cancer before surgery and in others a cancer may only be found after surgery is completed.

Types of Thyroid Cancer

There are several types of thyroid cancer. Most patients have papillary thyroid cancer, which typically has a good prognosis. The main treatment for thyroid cancer is surgery. This surgery will involve removing the thyroid and sometimes enlarged lymph nodes.

  • Papillary: The most common form of thyroid cancer. This type of cancer, which tends to grow slowly, has a good prognosis. It is treated with thyroid surgery and, in selected cases, radioactive iodine.

  • Follicular: This type of thyroid cancer also typically has a good overall prognosis. It is treated similarly to papillary carcinoma, with thyroid surgery and in selected cases, radioactive iodine.

  • Medullary: This form of thyroid cancer develops from cells in the thyroid gland that are different from papillary and follicular thyroid cancers. While the prognosis with medullary cancer is not as favorable when compared with those types of thyroid cancers, it is also much less common (between 5-10 percent of all thyroid cancers). Medullary thyroid carcinoma can be associated with several inherited syndromes but most cases happen in patients without any family history. Treatment for medullary thyroid cancer is primarily surgery.

  • Anaplastic: This is the least common type of thyroid cancer but it is very aggressive. This cancer often grows very quickly and requires a multidisciplinary medical team to determine the best treatment plan.