My hospital stay

Length of hospital stay:

Your stay in the hospital will depend on:

  • The extent of the surgery (partial or total removal of the thyroid, size of the thyroid)
  • The need for a neck drain
  • Your general health condition
  • Your calcium levels (For total thyroidectomies only)

Hemi-thyroidectomy (half of the gland removed): The majority of patients will go home the day after surgery.

Total thyroidectomy (whole gland removed): The majority of patient will be home within 24-48 hours after the surgery.

During your stay, your surgical team will monitor:

  • Your calcium and parathyroid hormone levels (if the whole thyroid is removed) using bloodwork
  • Increased neck swelling to watch for neck hematomas
  • Your voice: It is normal to have a hoarse voice and mild throat pain after the surgery due to the breathing tube you had during general anaesthesia. This DOES NOT MEAN that your recurrent laryngeal nerves are not working . If your voice is very weak, you could have a flexible laryngoscopy (small camera to see the voice box) to make sure your vocal cords are moving well.

If you have a neck drain, we will usually delay discharge from the hospital until the drain output is low enough to reduce chance of fluid accumulation in your neck. This can prolong your stay by 1 - 2 days.

If your calcium levels are low after the surgery, you may need calcium supplementation and your discharge from the hospital will be delayed until your calcium levels are stabilized.

To minimize your stay in the hospital, we encourage you to:

  • Start walking early after the surgery
  • Start drinking and eating as prescribed by your health team

Will I have a neck drain?

The body is usually capable of absorbing extra fluid/ blood from the surgical site without the need for a drain.

Your surgeon can chose to leave a neck drain after the surgery to help your body eliminate the extra blood or fluid if:

  • The thyroid removed was large and a big cavity was left

  • You have a higher tendency to bleed

  • If you have a neck drain, it will usually be removed 24-48 hours later, once the drain output is low enough.


What is the level of pain and how will it be managed?

In general, thyroid surgery is not a very painful operation and patients do not usually report high levels of pain.

 You will most probably experience some tightening or burning sensation around the neck incision in the first few days following the surgery. You can also experience mild throat pain that is due to the breathing tube you had during surgery

This pain can be very well relieved with the pain medications prescribed by your surgeon. The nurses from your health team will regularly assess your pain but don't hesitate to ask for your pain medications.

Most patients are very well relieved with oral pain medications such as Tylenol, Tylenol #3 or Percocet (Acetaminophen with codeine/oxycodone). If you experience higher levels of pain, small doses of intravenous pain medications can be administered.

You will us usually leave the hospital with a prescription for oral pain medication that you can take as needed during your recovery from surgery.

If your whole thyroid was removed, you will also be given a prescription for thyroid hormone replacement. If your whole thyroid was removed and you require calcium +/- vitamin D supplementation, these medications will also be included in your prescription.