Thyroid Surgery: Before Your Surgery

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Thyroid gland

What is thyroid surgery?

Thyroid surgery takes out part or all of your thyroid gland. The gland makes hormones that control how your body makes and uses energy (metabolism).

A doctor may take out part or all of the gland when it gets too big, doesn't work right, or has a growth. Most growths or lumps in this gland are benign. This means they aren't cancer.

This surgery may be needed for problems such as thyroid nodules, thyroid cancer, and hyperthyroidism.

During your surgery, your doctor may take out a lump or nodule. A doctor will look at the tissue under a microscope.

  • If the sample gives a clear answer for your problem, your doctor may leave the rest of your thyroid. Or you may have all of it removed.
  • If the answer isn't clear, your doctor may leave the thyroid. More tests may be done on the tissue. When the test results come back, you may need surgery to take out the rest of your thyroid.

The doctor will take out the tissue, lump, or tumor through a cut (incision) in the front of your neck. You will likely have a tube, called a drain, in your neck. It lets fluid out of the cut. The drain is most often taken out before you go home.

You may go home on the same day. Or you may stay one or more nights in the hospital after surgery. You may return to work or your normal routine in 1 to 2 weeks. This depends on whether you need more treatment and how you feel. It may also depend on the kind of work you do.

Your doctor will check your incision in about a week. You may need to take thyroid medicine. If you have thyroid cancer, you may need to have radioactive iodine therapy. Your doctor will talk to you about what happens next.

How do you prepare for surgery?

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your procedure. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the procedure and how soon to do it.
  • If you take a medicine that prevents blood clots, your doctor may tell you to stop taking it before your surgery. Or your doctor may tell you to keep taking it. (These medicines include aspirin and other blood thinners.) Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance directive. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be canceled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
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    Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
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    Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
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    Take off all jewelry and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery center

  • Bring a picture ID.
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    The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
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    You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You will be asleep during the surgery.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your surgery.
  • You become ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.