Before and After Thyroid Surgery
Everything you need to know before and after thyroid surgery
Prior to your clinic visit, you may need to undergo testing to evaluate your thyroid. Testing may include ultrasound and/or fine needle aspiration biopsy (FNA), as well as routine blood work.
A series of general screening tests may be done to ensure you are healthy enough for surgery. These are often conducted one to two weeks before the operation and may include a thorough history, physical exam and blood work. Additionally, an EKG, chest x-ray and/or stress test may be needed to evaluate your heart and lung function and usually do not require a hospital stay.
You may also meet with an endocrine surgery nurse practitioner about the operation, and to make sure all the appropriate testing has been completed.
Certain medications may need to be stopped before surgery. Please consult your surgeon or primary care physician before doing so. Find a full list of medications and guidelines here.
Day Before Surgery
The Day Surgery department will contact you the evening before your surgery to let you know what time to arrive, which may be two hours prior to your surgery. As a general rule, do not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before, and arrive at least two hours before your scheduled surgery. Most often you can take your routine medications with a sip of water. Medication guidelines prior to surgery will be discussed at your pre-operative visit.
You should plan to stay overnight in the hospital and will likely be discharged the following morning. Please leave all valuables at home and wear comfortable clothing.
Upon discharge, you may be prescribed the following common medications:
- Pain medication
- If necessary, you may be started on thyroid hormone (levothyroxine, Synthroid, Levoxyl). Typically your thyroid hormone levels will be monitored by your primary care physician or endocrinologist four to six weeks after surgery. Your dosage of medication (based on weight) will be adjusted as needed.
- Your parathyroid glands, which control the calcium level in your body, may be temporarily injured. Therefore, some patients may be sent home with calcium (TUMS). Though rare, numbness or tingling around your lips or in your fingers or toes could indicate a low calcium level. If this happens, you will be instructed to take extra TUMS and notify the surgeon’s office.
You will return one to two weeks post surgery to consult with your surgeon and review care instructions for your incision. Four to six weeks after, your thyroid hormone level will be measured, and medication adjusted.
There are no restrictions on normal activities after surgery. You may feel more tired than usual, but it usually resolves quickly. Light activity such as walking is encouraged to help speed up recovery. Gentle neck exercises (PDF) will help prevent neck stiffness after surgery.