The thyroid gland in our body is always compared to the shape of a butterfly. The thyroid gland is present on neck’s lower front part, and it can be located below your voice box.
The gland is essential and plays a significant role in producing and secreting hormones required by our body. Thyroid hormones regulate our metabolism.
What To Expect After Thyroid Surgery?
Thyroid hormones are necessary to keep going and keep all the organs functions as expected. The hormones play a significant role in conserving heat inside your body.
But, in some people, the thyroid gland starts producing hormones more than necessary. And in other cases, the thyroid may undergo some structural issues like cysts’ growth, nodules.
Some people also experience swelling in the thyroid gland, and in all these cases, doctors may recommend thyroid surgery. When a person undergoes thyroid surgery, all the thyroid gland portions will be removed from the body.
The patient will be under general anesthesia when thyroid surgery is performed.
Why thyroid surgery?
There are several reasons because of which doctors recommend thyroid surgery. The presence of tumors or nodules in the thyroid gland is one of the most common reasons.
The majority of the thyroid nodules will be benign, but they can be diagnosed as precancerous or cancerous in some cases.
Even though the nodule is benign, it can cause several issues. If the nodule has grown large, it can even obstruct the throat and stimulate either lower or overproduction of hormones.
In such cases, doctors recommend surgery, and it can correct hyperthyroidism. Grave’s disease is one of the significant reasons behind hyperthyroidism.
In this situation, the body may not identify the thyroid gland’s presence, and it starts treating the gland as some foreign body.
When the body is in such a condition, it may even send antibodies to attack the thyroid gland. The antibodies will inflame the thyroid, and that results in hormone overproduction.
There is one more reason people opt for thyroid surgery and that is swelling and in some cases enlargement of the gland.
Goiter is the word used for such condition, and like any other nodules, even goiter can block thyroid functioning and even the throat. People may find it difficult to breathe, speak, and eat in this condition.
There are many types of thyroid surgery, and one of the most common types is lobectomy. Total thyroidectomy surgery and subtotal thyroidectomy are the other two major types.
In case of inflammation, nodule, or swelling, half of the thyroid gland may be experiencing issues. In this case, the surgeon will remove just two lobes of the gland.
The remaining part of the thyroid gland will function as it is, and it may carry out all the necessary functions required by the body.
- Subtotal thyroidectomy
In this type of surgery, the thyroid gland is removed, but they will leave behind a certain thyroid tissue amount. So, the remaining tissue is expected to preserve some portion of thyroid function.
In most cases, people suffer from hypothyroidism after the surgery; in this condition, where thyroid tissue produces hormones but not in the expected amount. Supplement hormones can take condition care.
- Total thyroidectomy
Here the entire thyroid gland is removed through the surgery along with thyroid tissue. This type of surgery is recommended when swelling, nodules, and inflammation present in the thyroid gland affect the entire thyroid gland.
The same surgery is also necessary when the person is suffering from cancerous nodules.
Recovery from thyroid surgery
After thyroid surgery, in most cases, a person will come back to their everyday life. The patient undergone thyroid gland surgery can also perform all normal and daily routines as usual.
But when it comes to strenuous activities, it is better to avoid them for ten days after the surgery.
For several days, a person may experience a sore throat. Doctors will prescribe all the necessary and required medicines for example over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
Such drugs will give some relief from throat soreness. In some cases, these common medications may not be enough, and doctors recommend narcotic pain medication.
In some cases, a person may develop hypothyroidism. So, when hypothyroidism is developed, doctors suggest taking some levothyroxine types to bring back the normal hormone levels.
To find the medication’s best dosage, the patient may have to undergo several blood tests and adjustments.
The recovery from thyroid surgery always depends on the type and extends of the surgery a person has undergone. The patient may take a long time recovering from open and traditional surgery than minimally invasive procedures.
After surgery, a person may experience:
- Voice changes, like hoarse voice
- They may find it difficult to speak loudly, and voice fatigue will be common
- The tone of the voice may change. Changes are mainly due to damages occurred to laryngeal nerves that are responsible for the voice box
- A person may experience all these changes for a few days, but none of them are permanent
- Other common effects experienced by patient after surgery is low blood calcium levels. The reason behind this change is damaging occurred to parathyroid glands during the thyroid surgery
- But, the issue is temporary, and a person can recover from it by taking calcium supplements
- If you have a tingling feeling on your hands, lips, and bottom of your feet and numbness, then you must understand that you are experiencing low blood calcium. Crawling experience in your muscle and skin, muscle cramps, depression, anxiety, and bad headaches are also signs of reduced calcium levels
Like any other surgery, even after thyroid gland surgery person must monitor bodily changes and rest for a few days.
Even though the person can go back to his routine the next day of the surgery, it all depends on his age, health condition, and surgery extent.
It is better to monitor bodily changes like low calcium levels and hypothyroidism after undergoing thyroid gland surgery.
Dr Joey Harper conducts research on a wide range of topics. He is a distinguished research professor and has coordinated many projects funded by the health commission. He has also served as a member of the panel in Food and Agriculture of the United Nations. Joey Harper is an editor in chief of an award winning encyclopedia, of which a second edition is now being prepared.