The surgery done to treat thyroid problems is known as Thyroidectomy. It is the process of removing a part or all of your thyroid gland surgically. The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ that sits at the bottom of your neck. This gland produces hormones that regulate different aspects of your metabolism, from how quickly you burn calories to how fast your hearts beat.
Thyroidectomy can treat a wide range of thyroid disorders which include cancer, goitre and hyperthyroidism etc.
When you undergo a thyroidectomy, you will have your thyroid gland removed to some or all of its size, depending on the reason for the surgery. In the case of partial Thyroidectomy, your thyroid may be able to function normally after surgery because only part of it will be removed. However, in the case of total Thyroidectomy, you should take thyroid hormone supplements daily to replace the natural function of your thyroid because the entire thyroid gland is removed in the process.
After administering the anaesthesia, and the patient is unconscious, the surgeon makes a small incision in the middle at the base of your neck. Incisions are often made in a fold of skin, which is difficult to see after the stitches have healed. The thyroid gland may be removed entirely or partially, depending on the reasons for the surgery.
A thyroidectomy may also involve the removal of lymph nodes around the thyroid if the procedure is done to treat thyroid cancer. On average, a thyroidectomy takes one to two hours. However, depending on the extent of the surgery, it could take more or less time.
Thyroidectomy can be performed in several ways, including:
Conventional Thyroidectomy: This approach involves making an incision in the centre of your neck to directly access your thyroid gland. In this method, your thyroid gland is directly accessed through an incision made in the centre of your neck. This procedure is likely to be suitable for the majority of people.
Transoral Thyroidectomy: In this approach, an incision inside the mouth is made instead of an incision in the neck.
Endoscopic Thyroidectomy: A smaller incision in the neck is required for this technique. A small video camera and some special surgical tools are sent through the incision to access the gland. The camera is used as a guide to see inside throughout the procedure.
How long does it take to recover from thyroid surgery?
Recovering from surgery depends on the type and extent of the surgery. The recovery time for traditional, open surgery is longer compared to minimally invasive surgery. Following surgery, patients might experience voice problems which include a hoarse voice, trouble speaking loudly, a weary voice, and a different tone of voice.
Temporary complications post-surgery
These changes happen due to damage to the laryngeal nerve connected to your voice box (larynx) when you undergo surgery. Typically, this just lasts for a few days or weeks, and in very rare cases, it will be permanent. However, surgeons use various monitoring techniques during surgery to reduce the risk of nerve damage.
During surgery, the parathyroid glands may be damaged, resulting in low calcium levels in the blood. Fortunately, this is also a short-term problem where calcium supplements are sufficient to address this issue. The signs that indicate low calcium levels in your body are numbness and tingling sensations in your hands, lips and feet, a crawling sensation in your skin, muscle cramps, headaches, and anxiety.
Days after surgery
Right after surgery, you may experience stiffness and numbness in your neck. These symptoms are normal and get better over time as the incision heals. Your incision(s) must be cared for for the first few days after surgery. Based on the dressing applied to the wound, bathing, showering, and swimming is not advisable until it heals. The area around the scar may appear bruised or slightly swollen, which is normal. But, if you observe any excessive swelling, talk to your surgeon immediately because it might be an indication of infection.
The scar gradually heals and becomes hard. Generally, the hardening occurs around three weeks post-surgery and heals completely within two to three months. If you feel the wound is very tender, apply a few drops of non-scented moisturizer cream around the wound. This softens the skin and helps to prevent dryness.
You should take proper rest for at least one or two weeks before you return to your daily activities and other works. Lifting heavy objects is not recommended for a few weeks after surgery to prevent any stress on your neck.
When you no longer experience pain and can turn your head, you can resume driving and go back to other activities, including non-contact sports.
You will probably be advised to do some gentle exercises for your neck and shoulder after the operation by the hospital’s physical therapist. Those exercises will avoid permanent stiffness of your neck and shoulder. So make sure you follow the instructions of your physical therapist. Consult your doctor if you are experiencing persistent pain or stiffness.
You may need to eat soft and easy-to-swallow foods when your neck is sore and stiff. Eat slowly and make sure you drink more water during and after meals to soften foods and avoid blockages. In addition, you may find it helpful to blend solid foods.
Never miss the follow-up consultation with your doctor or surgeon after your surgery because your hormone levels and recovery will be monitored. During these visits, doctors can find complications, if any, and suggest you change of medication if necessary, and you will receive guidance about returning to daily activities. To know more detailed information about surgery and recovery, consult Dr V Pareek, one of the best doctors for thyroid problems in Hyderabad. Reach us on +91 9177777715.