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What to Expect from Thyroidectomy

The primary reasons for removing your thyroid gland are due to a mass (a large benign growth or suspected cancerous nodule), a goiter or overactive thyroid. In most cases, these masses can cause difficulty in swallowing or breathing and even result in the thyroid not functioning properly. WakeMed ENT surgeons can remove the gland and accompanying growths using a minimally invasive procedure that reduces the incision size from traditional open surgery.

The procedure is performed under general anesthesia using an endoscope to direct the surgeon to the gland. Instruments are inserted alongside the scope through a tiny incision – usually no more than one- inch long – and the gland is removed. The procedure takes about two to two-and-a-half hours. The incision is covered with a protective tape, and patients normally are hospitalized overnight. Some patients may be discharged within 23 hours.

Learn What to Expect from Thyroidectomy 

What is a Thyroidectomy?

A thyroidectomy is a total removal of the thyroid. A partial is when you only have a piece of the thyroid removed.

Click here to listen to Dr. Lewis Overton’s podcast about Thyroidectomy.

Prior to the Procedure

  • You might have had a thyroid ultrasound, fine needle aspiration, CT or MRI prior to surgery.
  • Do not take any aspirin products for five days prior to surgery.
  • Nothing by mouth after midnight the night before surgery. If you take medications, ask the doctor your prescribed them about which ones you need to take and which ones you can forego until after your procedure.
  • Let your doctor know if you have a cold, flu fever, herpes breakout or other illness prior to surgery. This may require that you reschedule your procedure.
  • Do not smoke. This will help you recover quicker.
  • You will usually be asked not to drink or eat anything after midnight the night before the surgery.

Day of the Procedure

  • Plan to arrive 2 hours before your surgery time for pre-operative procedures.
  • The anesthesiologist will discuss types of anesthesia with you and answer any questions you have.
  • You will be taken into the operating room and be given general anesthesia by the anesthesiology team.
  • Your total or partial thyroid will be removed through an external incision in the operating room by the surgeon.

After the Procedure

  • You will be taken to the recovery room where your surgeon will update you and your family on how the procedure went.
  • You will be admitted to the hospital for 2-3 days after surgery. While in the hospital, you will be monitored for pain and infection.
  • Once at home you will be given prescription medication to take for pain. Do not drive or operate heavy machinery while taking prescription pain medication.
  • Drink fluids to stay hydrated.
  • Keep the wound clean and dry.
  • You will be cleared to return to work at your post-operative visit with the doctor. You should not return to work until cleared by your doctor.
  • Rest often and do not lift anything heavier than 10 pounds.
  • Keep your follow-up appointment.

Contact your provider if you have:

  • A fever greater than 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • A small amount of bleeding.
  • Pain that cannot be managed by your current prescription pain medication.
  • Signs of infections: abnormal swelling, wound is hot to touch, or drainage that is green or yellow from wound.

Seek immediate care in the ER if you have:

  • A lot of bleeding.
  • Hoarseness or the feeling that your throat is closing.
  • Numbness or tingling around your mouth.

Please call our office at 919-350-3277 during business hours Monday-Thursday, 8 am-5 pm with questions or concerns. After hours or on the weekends, please contact the on-call doctor by calling 919-350-8000 and asking to page the ENT doctor on call.