You had surgery to remove part or all of your thyroid gland. You probably spent 1 to 3 days in the hospital.
A speech pathologist may have shown you exercises to make your vocal cords stronger. A dietitian may have helped you plan meals for the first few days after your surgery.
What to Expect at Home
You may have a drain attached to a bulb coming from your incision.
You may have some pain and soreness in your neck at first, especially when you swallow. Your voice may be a little hoarse for the first week. You will probably be able to start your everyday activities in just a few weeks.
If you had thyroid cancer, you may need to have radioactive iodine treatment soon.
Get plenty of rest when you get home. Keep your head raised while you are sleeping for the first week.
Managing Your Pain
Your doctor may have prescribed a narcotic pain medicine. You may take over-the-counter pain medicine, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol). Take all of your pain medicines the way your doctor or nurse told you to.
Try taking your pain medicine 30 minutes before a meal to ease the pain of swallowing.
You may put a cold compress on your surgical cut for 20 minutes at a time to ease pain. Do not put the ice directly on your skin. Make sure it is wrapped in a towel. Keep the area dry.
Take good care of your drain (if you have one) and dressings (bandages).
Use a cotton swab and hydrogen peroxide (or another solution your doctor told you to use) to clean the wound area 2 times a day until the stitches are out.
If you have a drainage bulb, empty it 2 times a day. Keep track of the amount of fluid you empty each time. When it is less than a tablespoon, your surgeon will remove the drain.
If you have dressings over the wound area, change them the way your doctor or nurse showed you. Keep the area dry.
Wash the area with mild soap and water when the stitches are out. Gently pat it dry.
Lai SY, Mandel SJ, Weber RS. Management of thyroid neoplasms. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund VJ, Niparko JK, Richardson MA, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier;2010:chap 124.
Shabir Bhimji, MD, PhD, Specializing in General Surgery, Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery, Midland, TX. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.