There are multiple reasons that you might need a partial or total thyroidectomy. The most serious is thyroid cancer, in which case all or almost of the thyroid may be removed. Partial thyroidectomies are usually either due to a goiter that is large enough to cause issues with daily living or an overactive thyroid that does not respond well to medication.
Whatever the reason for your thyroidectomy, it is certainly a significant surgery. It is a safe procedure performed by experienced thyroid surgeons. Even so, there are things you should know beforehand in order to minimise the chances of complications.
Preparation for a thyroidectomy is standard. While you may be put on pre-surgery medication for hyperthyroid reasons, the main concern is when and what you can eat and drink, as this may affect the anaesthetic. The hospital and/or the anaesthetist can advise you on additional pre-operative precautions.
You do need to be aware that a thyroidectomy is an inpatient procedure. Hospital stays are generally overnight unless complications arise or the procedure is more extensive. It is important to be less active for a few weeks immediately following the procedure. While most people can return to their daily routine within a few weeks, you will still need to take it easy.
Often, especially for inpatient procedures, the most significant part of preparing for the surgery can be mental. Some people may be frightened of hospitals, anaesthetics, or surgeries. Talk to your doctor about anxiety concerning these or other elements of your procedure as excess stress and anxiety can impede your healing process. In addition, there are many calming techniques available that you can perform yourself, and your doctor should be happy to recommend some to you.
Planning for your concerns may also help and having someone with you on admission may help in easing anxieties and keeping you calmer. It is especially helpful to have someone you know with you when you wake up from the surgery, as you will be groggy from the anaesthetic and not necessarily able to process your surroundings well.
Once you are released from the hospital, your surgeon and nurse will advise you on post-operative care. You may be able to eat and drink as normal. If you are having the surgery to alleviate symptoms from an enlarged goitre you may be able to swallow better. You might also have neck pain, which will generally decrease as you recover.
After thyroid surgery, thyroid hormone replacement my be needed. Depending on the amount of thyroid gland that needs to be removed, your body may not have enough thyroid tissue to be able to produce the thyroid hormone needed to controls your metabolism. Just like someone whose thyroid naturally does not produce enough of the hormone, you will need to take thyroid hormone medication in order to get enough of this hormone and be able to function at normal energy levels. This will be followed up with blood tests to ensure that you get the proper levels of hormone for your body.
If you have questions or concerns about the thyroid gland contact your local doctor, who will arrange for you to see a thyroid surgeon.