Thyroidectomy What To Watch For

Thyroidectomy is a surgical procedure where the thyroid gland is removed. It is a common procedure that is carried out for different reasons such as cancer, enlargement of the thyroid gland, and hyperthyroidism. Though rare, complications may arise either during or after the surgery. In this article, we will explore some of the things to watch out for and other important information one needs to know about thyroidectomy.

Categories of Thyroidectomy

There are different categories of thyroidectomy, and they include:
• Partial thyroidectomy
• Total thyroidectomy
• Hemi-thyroidectomy
• Completion Thyroidectomy
• Thyroid Lobectomy

Partial thyroidectomy: In Partial thyroidectomy, the surgeon removes only a part of the thyroid gland. This category of thyroidectomy is mostly applicable to those who have gotten treatment for thyroid cancer earlier and only have a small amount of thyroid tissue remaining.

Total thyroidectomy: As the name suggests, total thyroidectomy involves the complete removal of the thyroid gland. This category of thyroidectomy is mostly applicable in the treatment of thyroid cancer, Grave’s disease, or in cases where a goiter causes obstruction in breathing and swallowing.

Hemi-thyroidectomy: In Hemi-thyroidectomy, a lobe of the thyroid gland is removed. This category can be used to treat a hyperactive thyroid.

Completion thyroidectomy: Completion thyroidectomy is also known as secondary thyroidectomy. This category is applicable to a patient who has had a previous partial thyroidectomy but needs the remaining tissue removed later.

Thyroid Lobectomy: This category is mostly used in treating thyroid nodules or cysts.

Complications of thyroidectomy

Complications are not very common, but they can still occur after a thyroidectomy. The following are some of the complications that may arise:

• Bleeding: This is when there is excessive bleeding during or after the surgery. It is most times corrected with a surgical procedure.

• Infection: Infection can occur and may require immediate treatment. It usually comes with swelling, pain, and redness around the incision.

• Voice Change: Damage can occur to the nerve that leads to the voice box and vocal cord, which can lead to voice changes.

• Low calcium levels (hypocalcemia): This is caused when the parathyroid gland gets affected during the surgery. Calcium is essential for muscle and nerve function.

• Scar tissue: This occurs when the incision that is made during the surgery heals and leaves behind a scar.

• Difficulty in swallowing: Difficulty in swallowing can be caused by scar tissue, especially if the thyroid nodule that was removed was initially located at the back of the thyroid gland.

What to watch for after thyroidectomy?

After the thyroidectomy, there are some symptoms to watch out for as they may indicate complications. These include the following:

• Swelling: There could be swelling around the incision site, which is normal and usually subsides after a few days. But the swelling should not be excessive.

• Pain: Pain around the incision site is normal and expected, but it should not be overwhelming.

• Difficulty in breathing or hoarseness of voice: Difficulty in breathing could be an indication that there is an obstruction somewhere due to excessive swelling, and hoarseness of voice could be an indication that the nerve that leads to the voice box has been affected.

• Fever: A fever could be an indication of an infection. Visit your doctor immediately if you have a fever above 101-degree Fahrenheit.

• Weakness, numbness: Weakness or numbness in the hands or feet could be a sign of low calcium levels.

• Rapid heartbeat and/or palpitations: This could be indicative of hyperthyroidism, and you should visit your doctor as soon as possible.


1. When can I go home after my thyroidectomy?

Typically, patients will stay in the hospital for one to two days after the surgery before being discharged.

2. How long will it take for me to recover after a thyroidectomy?

It typically takes about two weeks to recover fully after a thyroidectomy surgery.

3. Will I need to take medication after a thyroidectomy?

If the thyroid gland’s entire gland is removed, the patient will need to take medication for life to replace the thyroid hormone.

4. What should I eat after a thyroidectomy?

After a thyroidectomy, it is advisable to eat a soft diet that is high in nutrition and low in iodine.

5. Can I have children after a thyroidectomy?

Yes, women who have had a thyroidectomy can have children, but they will need to take medication to replace the hormones that their thyroid would have produced naturally.

Thyroidectomy is a common surgical procedure, and with the proper preparation, the risk of complications can be minimized. It is essential to pay close attention to the symptoms after the surgery and to seek prompt medical attention if anything seems out of the ordinary. With the necessary care and precautions, a patient can make a full recovery and return to normal life activities within a few weeks.

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