I underwent thyroid surgery in 2010 due to nodules that had grown on my thyroid. I first noticed the nodules in 2003 as a slight swelling in my throat. The nodules did not bother me until the size reached a point where eating and drinking was becoming a hazard due to choking. At this point, I also felt constant pressure in my throat and felt as if someone were squeezing my neck softly.
By late 2010, I knew I could not wait any longer to visit a specialist and scheduled an appointment. At the first consultation, I filled out the standard paperwork that included family medical history and any thyroid related health issue.
My mother has Graves disease so this was one of the things the doctors checked for in the blood tests.
I underwent multiple tests ordered by my doctor including a complete blood workup, a thorough physical, and an ultrasound of my thyroid to rule out any underlying health issues that may affect surgery. A fine needle biopsy was performed to rule out cancer and thankfully, the nodule was benign, or non-cancerous. The biopsy was a quick but painful procedure even though the doctor numbed the area before the biopsy.
My surgery was scheduled and I was advised to arrive early for any last minute tests or paperwork that needed taken care of prior to surgery.
The surgeon consulted with me to explain the operation and the approximate length of time the surgery would take to complete. Next, the anesthesiologist arrived with details regarding what anesthetics would be used during surgery and what to expect when upon waking.
The nurse then placed an IV to administer for the anesthesiologist to administer the anesthetic for any medications the doctor might order, such as pain medications.
After surgery, I work up in the recovery area with a four-inch incision and drain tube located in the thyroid region. The incision, closed with steri-strips, was numb and I did not feel any pain in that area until the anesthetic wore off. I was instructed to let the steri-strips fall off on their own and not to pull or scratch at them.
My doctor chose to use the traditional surgical procedure due to the size of the nodule on my thyroid and the fact that the size of the growth was about three inches in length running parallel to my collarbone.
My throat felt scratchy due to the tube placed down my throat to assist in breathing during surgery. I noticed immediately that my voice had changed from normal to sounding as if I was hoarse. My doctor and I had discussed possible changes to my voice because of the surgery, so this change was not a surprise. My voice is still hoarse four years later, although most patients recover a normal voice shortly after surgery.
I went home the same day as surgery with the drainage tube still in my throat. Normally an overnight stay would be recommended to check for excessive bleeding or any other issues that may arise. I was allowed to resume a normal diet as soon as I felt able and any pain subsided.
My doctor recommended weight restrictions for approximately three weeks after surgery with limited activity the first week. After the initial week, I resumed normal activity and returned to work.
A month after my surgery, thyroid hormone levels were checked and found to be low, by this time, I was feeling extreme fatigue. I take the thyroid hormone replacement medication, levothyroxine, at a low does daily and will need this medication the rest of my life.
The scar on my neck was raised and red right after surgery, then turned white, and now has faded to a slim line that is not noticeable unless I bring attention to it.
Thyroid surgery may seem frightening but overall, this was the simplest surgery I have had and the recovery time was minimal. Bring a list of questions to ask your doctor during your initial consultation so you know what to expect and to ease your mind.