The results of thyroid surgery depend on a number of things, including your general health.
After recovery from thyroid surgery you can expect any obvious swelling on your neck to resolve along with any symptoms caused by your thyroid disease. You’ll most likely have a scar on the front of your neck that fades over time.
Depending on how much thyroid is removed, you may need to take thyroid hormones for the rest of your life. Your doctor will ask you to have regular blood tests to make sure the medication is working for you. Many people worry about needing thyroid hormone tablets, but they’re effective and very well tolerated.
If you’ve had surgery for thyroid cancer, the result will depend on the nature of your cancer. Your doctor will personalise the treatment plan with you, ideally with a team of specialist doctors.
Risks and complications
As with any medical procedure there are some potential risks. The chance of complications depends on the type of procedure that you’re having and a range of other factors.
Serious complications in less than 2% of people include:
- Bleeding or a blood clot in your neck (haematoma) (1%)
- Injury to the nerve controlling your voice box which can cause hoarseness (<2%)
- Temporary damage to your parathyroid glands. These 4 tiny and delicate glands which sit right behind your thyroid gland and control your body’s calcium levels, are prone to being injured in total thyroidectomy surgery. This happens in 50% of patients who have their whole thyroid gland removed. If all 4 glands are upset or damaged, you’ll need to take calcium and vitamin D tablets until they recover. Your doctor will monitor your blood level of parathyroid hormone and reduce your tablets when you’re ready.
- Permanent damage to your parathyroid glands (3-5% after total thyroidectomy only). Following this surgery, there is a chance that your parathyroid glands won’t recover and you’ll need to take calcium and vitamin D permanently.
- Mild difficulty or discomfort swallowing – common and usually lasts several days.
- Injury to your windpipe or oesophagus (food pipe) is extremely rare.
- Breathing problems due to nerve injury
- Leak of lymphatic fluid into the area surrounding your lungs (chyle leak)
Ask your surgeon about the results and risks associated with your procedure. Also ask about their experience in thyroid surgery, and their own rates of patient satisfaction and the rate of complications following the procedures they’ve performed.
Check out your hospital
Compare your hospital's golden staph infection and hand hygiene rates.