Thyroid Surgery FAQs

The decision to undergo thyroid surgery is an important one. Please find below a series of questions and answers that you may helpful if thyroid surgery has been recommended by your physician.

How much calcium should I take after surgery?

All of our patients are discharged on oral calcium supplementation to provide your calcium needs while your “normal” parathyroid glands wake up.  The typical dose is Caltrate 600mg with D, twice per day (one tablet in the morning and one tablet in the evening).  Some patients may be discharged on a higher dose.  It is important that you obtain the calcium supplements prior to surgery so that you are not scrambling to find calcium after your surgery. Please start taking the calcium the day of surgery.

What type of anesthesia will I have?

Thyroid surgery can be performed under two types of anesthesia: general or local anesthesia. With general anesthesia an endotracheal tube is carefully placed in your airway and you are completely asleep during the operation. With local anesthesia, you receive intravenous sedation and your neck area is numbed with a local anesthetic. With the local anesthesia approach, patients are kept in a “twilight” state during surgery and usually have no recall of the operation. Either approach is safe and allows for same day discharge.  Most thyroid operations are performed under general anesthesia to permit the use of intraoperative nerve monitoring, which allows the surgeon to test the nerves to your vocal cords during surgery.

Will I be discharged the same day of surgery?

About 75% of patients that undergo thyroid surgery at the Endocrine Surgery Thyroid Center are discharged home the same day of surgery. Depending on the duration of your surgery, the type of anesthesia you have, your medical history, and your condition after surgery, some patients may be kept in the hospital overnight.

Will I have pain after the operation?

All operations involve some pain and discomfort. Our goal is to minimize this discomfort. At the time of operation, your surgeon will give you some numbing medicine, which usually lasts about four to six hours after surgery. Although you should be able to eat and drink normally, the main complaint is pain with swallowing. Most patients take Tylenol® or Motrin® to keep them comfortable at home, but you will receive a prescription for a mild painkiller.

Will I have any physical restrictions?

Swimming is the only major restriction. In general, your activity level depends on how much discomfort you experience. Many patients have resumed regular activities within days after the operation. Most patients are able to return to work within the first week, and you are able to drive as soon as your head can be turned comfortably (this limitation is for driver safety).

When can I return to work?

Since we perform minimally invasive, outpatient thyroid surgery, patients typically recovery very quickly from surgery.  Patients can return to work three to seven days after surgery.

Will I have stitches?

Your incision will be closed with a single suture under the skin and may be covered with a special kind of skin glue. The skin glue is waterproof so that you can shower as usual (but do not submerge the incision for 5 days). The coating will peel off on its own within seven to ten days and a moisturizer can be applied to the wound at that time.

Will I have a scar?

Yes, all surgery causes scarring, and how a patient scars is dependent on the individual. However, there are techniques that surgeons use to minimize scarring. These techniques include smaller incision size, careful incision placement, and hypoallergenic suture materials (to avoid inflammation). As a general rule, it is unusual for adults to have a noticeable scar after six months. Please apply sun block to your scar for the first year after surgery.

When do I follow up?

Soon after your surgery, please call your surgeon’s office to make an appointment to be evaluated approximately one to three weeks after surgery. During your post-op visit, your surgeon may measure your thyroid hormone levels as well as calcium, PTH and Vitamin D levels. Copies of these lab result will be sent to you and to your referring provider.