• Answering all questions about your medical history and medications. This includes prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, herbal treatments, and vitamins. It is a good idea to carry a current list of your medical conditions, medications, and allergies at all times.
  • Getting preoperative testing as directed. Testing varies depending on your age, health, and specific procedure. Preoperative testing may include a chest X-ray, other imaging studies, a fine-needle biopsy, a swallow study, bronchoscopy (windpipe evaluation), flexible laryngoscopy (vocal cord evaluation), blood tests, and other tests as needed.
  • Losing excess weight before the surgery through a healthy diet and exercise plan
  • Not eating or drinking before surgery as directed. Your surgery may be cancelled if you eat or drink too close to the start of surgery because you can choke on stomach contents during anesthesia.
  • Stopping smoking as soon as possible. Even quitting for just a few days can be beneficial and help the healing process.
  • Taking or stopping medications exactly as directed. This may include not taking aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and blood thinners. You may also need to take thyroid medications or iodine treatments for a couple of weeks before your thyroidectomy.

Questions to ask your doctor

Facing surgery can be stressful. It is common for patients to forget some of their questions during a brief doctor’s office visit. You may also think of other questions after your appointment Contact your doctor with concerns and questions before surgery and between appointments.

It is also a good idea to bring a list of questions to your appointments. Questions can include:

  • Why do I need a thyroidectomy? Are there any other options for treating my condition?
  • Which type of thyroidectomy procedure will I need?
  • How long will the surgery take? When can I go home?
  • What restrictions will I have after the surgery? When can I return to work and other activities?
  • What kind of assistance will I need at home?
  • What medications will I need before and after the surgery? How should I take my regular medications?
  • How will you treat my pain?
  • When should I follow up with you?
  • How should I contact you? Ask for numbers to call during and after regular hours.

What can I expect after my thyroidectomy?

Knowing what to expect can help make your road to recovery after a thyroidectomy as smooth as possible. 

How long will it take to recover?

You will stay in the recovery room after surgery until you are alert, breathing effectively, and your vital signs are stable. You may have a sore throat if a tube was placed in your windpipe during surgery. This is usually temporary, but tell your care team if you are uncomfortable.

You may go home on the same day if you are recovering well and can swallow liquids. A hospital stay of one to two days may be required in some cases. 

Recovery after surgery is a gradual process. Recovery time varies depending on the procedure, type of anesthesia, your general health, age, and other factors. Full recovery takes two to four weeks.

Will I feel pain?

Pain control is important for healing and a smooth recovery. There will be discomfort after your surgery. Your doctor will treat your pain so you are comfortable and can get the rest you need. Call your doctor if your pain gets worse or changes because it may be a sign of a complication. 

When should I call my doctor?

It is important to keep your follow-up appointments after a thyroidectomy. Contact your doctor for questions and concerns between appointments. Call your doctor right away or seek immediate medical care if you have:

  • Bleeding
  • Breathing problems, such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, labored breathing, or wheezing
  • Change in alertness, such as passing out, dizziness, unresponsiveness, or confusion
  • Chest pain or palpitations
  • Hoarseness, coughing, swallowing problems, problems speaking, or other voice changes that are unexpected or last longer than expected.
  • Fever. A low-grade fever (lower than 101 degrees Fahrenheit) is common for a couple of days after surgery and not necessarily a sign of a surgical infection. However, you should follow your doctor's specific instructions about when to call for a fever.
  • Inability to urinate, pas gas, or have a bowel movement
  • Pain that is not controlled by your pain medication
  • Sore throat that lasts for more than three weeks
  • Swelling of the neck or throat
  • Tingling or cramps in the hands, feet or lips
  • Unexpected drainage, pus, redness or swelling of your incision