After thyroid surgery, it is important to follow your surgeon’s post-operative care instructions carefully to ensure proper healing and recovery. The Los Angeles expert thyroid surgeons at the Thyroid Surgery Center of Excellence will be sure to give you detailed post-op care directions before your procedure, but they have outlined some of the fundamentals for you here.
After Thyroid Surgery
Depending on the extent of your surgery, it may or may not be an outpatient procedure. Either way, it is recommended that you stay in bed resting for at least 24 hours following surgery. It is normal for you to feel better gradually each day, but if you have any concerns about your recovery, call your surgeon right away. Some bruising and swelling may be present near your incision site and/or the upper chest area, but this should subside within 3 to 4 weeks of the surgery.
One of the most common occurrences after thyroid surgery is a sore throat and difficulty swallowing. This will diminish within a few days, but you may want to take over the counter pain medication to help ease the pain. You may also notice that your voice is a bit hoarse for a while following surgery, but this generally clears up in about 4-6 weeks.
Thyroid Surgical Incision Care
After your procedure, your incision will be covered with a tape known as Steri-Strip to protect it. We recommend that you apply ice to the area of the surgery during the first 24 hours to minimize pain and swelling. It is fine to shower the day following the procedure, just be sure not to scrub or soak the incision site. After about 3 days, you will notice that the protective tape starts to lift up—this is normal and you should remove the tape by day 4.
Once you have removed the Steri-Strip protective tape, you will want to apply an antibiotic ointment such as Bacitracin, Polysporin, or Neosporin to the incision site a couple times a day for the next 5 days. After the 5th day of antibiotic ointment, switch to a vitamin E ointment and sunblock twice a day for the next couple of months to help minimizing scarring. Sun protection is crucial to minimizing the presence of a scar.
As the incision heals, the scar may appear pink and be slightly hard to the touch. Beginning two weeks after the surgery, massage the scar firmly every once in a while to help prevent and relieve firmness of the area.
Thyroid Hormone Replacement
For patients who undergo a full thyroidectomy, your endocrinologist will prescribe hormone tablets for you to begin taking daily immediately following surgery. The tablets will replace the thyroid hormone in your body that your thyroid used to produce. Your doctor will likely monitor your blood tests carefully to ensure you are getting the appropriate level of thyroid hormone to lead an active, healthy life. Patients who only have half of the thyroid removed will likely be monitored by their endocrinologist following surgery to see if the remaining portion of the thyroid gland is producing enough hormone on its own or if thyroid hormone medication is necessary.
Any surgery comes with its own unique set of post-op instructions and the world-renowned surgeons at our surgical center in Los Angeles want to make your post-op care as simple as possible. Here, they have answered some of their patients’ most frequently asked questions.
Q: When can I return to work following thyroid surgery?
A: While recovery will greatly depend on the type of thyroid surgery the patient has—minimally invasive thyroidectomy, traditional thyroidectomy, or nodule removal—and each individual person, it is fairly common for patients to return to work within two weeks of surgery. It is a good idea to stay away from sports and physical activity for about 4 weeks, but ultimately it is best to listen to your body and the advice of your surgeon. Be sure to follow up with your surgeon about a week after surgery and heed his/her advice for the full length of your recovery.
Q: Will I have a large, noticeable scar?
A: Our world-renowned thyroid surgeons are experts at performing minimally invasive thyroid surgeries. This means that, whenever possible, your surgeon will make an incision that is smaller than one inch. Between this technique and the plastic surgery techniques used to close the incision, scarring should be minimal. Discuss your case with the doctor during your consultation to see if you are a candidate for a minimally invasive procedure. No matter the type of procedure, though, carefully following the post-op instructions and avoiding exposure to the sun will be the best way to minimize the appearance of a scar.
Q: Can I shower after my surgery?
A: You can shower the day after your surgery, but be careful not to scrub the incision site or remove the protective tape. It is also important not to soak the area until advised by your doctor, so avoid swimming and taking baths. Your surgeon will give you detailed post-op instructions before you head home to ensure the best possible recovery.
Contact the Thyroid Surgery Center of Excellence
The Los Angeles Thyroid Surgery Center of Excellence is made up of some of the best thyroid surgeons in the country who specialize in minimally invasive procedures. If you have any questions or concerns about thyroid surgery, or would like to schedule a consultation with one of our experts, please call us today at (888) 817-1439.
For more information about thyroid surgery recovery, contact our office.
Please read this WebMD article on thyroid surgery.
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