Thyroidectomy - My Experience

Thyroid

Front view of thyroid
Front view of thyroid | Source
Back view of thyroid showing parathyroids
Back view of thyroid showing parathyroids | Source

The Thyroid

We all have one, but we don't pay attention to it. Seriously, when's the last time you thought about your thyroid? Do you even know where it is? Of course you do, its in your throat. Actually, its below your Adam's Apple in front of your windpipe. Did you know it has two sides and is shaped like a butterfly?

It also has lots of nerves and your vocal cords are located really close to it. Growth, development, and body temperature are regulated by thyroid hormones. It is one of the glands in the endocrine system, the body's control system.

Thyroid hormones increase the rate of cellular metabolism, how fast you burn calories, and how fast your heart beats . The thyroid hormones are T3, T4, and calcitonin. You may also have heard of TSH. TSH is thyroid-stimulating hormone which regulates the T3 and T4. T4 is converted to T3 which is used by various organs in the body. Iodine is also necessary to help regulate the thyroid. In parts of the world where there is no iodine, enlarged thyroids called goiters, are common. This is probably as clear as mud, however, if there is an imbalance of these hormones your body is in trouble and often, you don't even know it.

Signs of Thyroid Problems

Thyroid Problems/Diseases

The main types of thyroid problems are overactive and underactive. At least those are the main ones we hear about. This is a run down in a nutshell, certainly not a comprehensive look.

An overactive thyroid is often referred to as Hyperthyroidism, a condition where the thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone. When this happens your body's processes can speed up and you may experience nervousness, your heart may speed up, you may get sweaty, have trouble sleeping, or any number of other symptoms. Doctors don't always pin point hyperthyroidism as the cause of your problems. Medications can be prescribed but if these fail radioactive therapy may be prescribed.

An underactive thyroid is often referred to as Hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid produces too little thyroid hormone. When this happens your metabolism slows down. You may become tired, irritable, have dry skin, hair loss and more. Hypothyroidism is actually very common, especially among women. I'm not sure which comes first here, the chicken or the egg i.e. do nodules cause hypothyroidism or does hypothyroidism cause nodules? Either way they often go hand in hand.

Both overactive and underactive thyroids can be treated with medication. When medication does not do the trick and radioactive iodine therapy is not indicated, surgery is the only alternative. I know because I was scheduled for surgery.

Steps to Thyroid Surgery

Thyroid surgery is not done lightly. I had an underactive thyroid for about twenty years. I took synthroid and had my thyroid monitored meaning, I had sonograms done every six months to a year. Along with my underactive thyroid I had bilateral nodules that recently showed they were growing each time I had a sonogram. Additionally, my thyroid was enlarged (sometimes called a goiter). I also had two fine needle biopsies done over the years to rule out cancer.

A few months ago when I got the results of my latest biopsy my doctor informed me I needed another biopsy. These biopsies are painful. I asked him why we needed another one now and he said both the nodules and my thyroid had grown considerably. My thyroid was now three times its normal size. No one I know wants to have surgery, however, as the nodules and thyroid were continuing to grow and I wasn't getting any younger I thought perhaps surgery should be considered. My doctor said certainly, now would be a good time to take it out.

I then went to an endocrine surgeon. All he does is thyroid removal and specialized endocrine surgery. He said I could continue with the medication I was taking or remove the thyroid. When I posed the same situation to him he recommended removal. Step one, schedule an appointment for pre-op surgery.

The pre-op surgery appointment consists of a general check-up together with bloodwork, and a family history. Depending on your age, and EKG may be necessary. Normally surgery takes place two weeks later, but I had a bad cold so surgery was postponed. Three weeks later I went back, still had the cold, and surgery was again postponed. On my third pre-op visit and second EKG and set of bloodwork I was finally cold free and scheduled for surgery.

Step two, surgery. I was told the surgery would take between two and two and a half hours followed by some time in the recovery room before being brought to my room. I remember leaving the surgical prep area and being wheeled down the hall. The next thing for me, was waking up in my room. So I can say without a doubt, the surgery was no problem for me. However, when I was back in my room the fun began. I'm not sure which hurt more, my throat or my head. The nurse explained that often a patient's head hurts from the positioning of the head during surgery. Your throat hurts from the surgery but also from the large tube placed down your throat during surgery.

My incision is a little over three inches long (thank you Doctor!) According to WebMD the standard incision size is four to five inches long. While this is not a dangerous surgery in itself, there are two things the surgeon must be very careful with, the vocal cords and the parathyroid glands. The need to prevent damage to the vocal cords is obvious, your voice would be damaged if your vocal cords were. The parathyroids on the other hand are not as well known. These glands regulate the amount of calcium in the blood and are very important! Fortunately damage to either of these important structures is rare especially in the hands of a practiced surgeon.

To give the parathyroids time to recuperate, you may be prescribed large doses of calcium. My doctor chose to additionally give me calcitonin due to my age. Calcitonin is a naturally occurring hormone that helps regulate the calcium in your body. Taking the calcium supplements is usually recommended for five days, to feed and make sure the parathyroids are working. During that five days you have to have two blood tests spaced over the five days. I have heard of younger people who were prescribed calcium or even Tums with calcium before their surgery. The objective of the blood tests is to make sure the calcium is being regulated.

After the Surgery

Once the surgery is over, you've rested in the hospital overnight with special pain meds to get you through the night, you are then sent home. When you get home and look in the mirror you may be a little taken aback. There was no bandage on my throat. A skin glue closure was used and I was told the internal sutures would dissolve. So I was looking directly at the incision. It was kind of ugly, raised, bruised (black and blue), a lump under the incision, and of course the incision itself.

The body is a miraculous machine however! While you originally feel like you have the world's worst strep throat and swallowing will kill you, within just a few days you can swallow without that sharp pain! The headache is gone in a day or two. The stiffness and soreness in your neck, around your throat, may take a few days to go away. For the first three days after my surgery Tylenol was my best friend. I did not fill the prescription for the narcotic/stronger medication, didn't want it, didn't need it! I did have some difficulty swalling the huge calcium pills but I survived.

My voice was a bit hoarse but nothing to be alarmed about. There were no diet restrictions. If you could eat it, go ahead. Forty-eight hours after surgery I could shower without allowing the shower to beat directly on my throat. I was told once I could turn my neck without pain I could drive.

Its been almost two weeks since my surgery. I'm pretty much back to normal with a few exceptions. The incision is still very sore. If I raise my head to look up it pulls on the incision and hurts. If I laugh too hard, it hurts, but other than that I'm doing really well. I'm not sure if the fatigue is from the surgery or my new dose of synthroid, but we'll work that out I'm sure.

I go back to the doctor for my two week post op on Tuesday. I'll find out a few additional things then, but I'm pretty much on my own. The only thing is the incision and its remaining scar. It will be sun sensitive for a year. Yes, a full year. Covering it (until the sensitivity goes away) then loads of sunscreen on the incision area will prevent it from being a dark ugly scar in the future.

All in all this surgery was not as bad as I thought. Scary? Of course but there could be a lot worse. If you're schedule for this surgery, relax, listen to your doctor, and good luck.

Copyright Tillsontitan - All Rights Reserved

All photos property of Tillsontitan - may not be reproduced without permission

Surgery Photos

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Right after surgeryThe incisionA week after surgery
Right after surgery
Right after surgery
The incision
The incision
A week after surgery
A week after surgery

Post Op Visit

My post op visit went very well. I saw the Physician's Assistant I had seen for my pre op visit. She was very friendly, pleasant, and helpful. She removed the dermabond that was over the incision. It was a little uncomfortable but not bad. The dermabond was the reason there was no visible bandage over the incision and added to the unsightly appearance. One of the internal sutures had made its way outside of the skin so she tugged on it and cut it. I have to admit that was a bit painful, but not for long. That night I was sore and had to take a Tylenol, but not bad all in all.

Residual swelling will take about three months to go away as well as the feeling there's a golf ball in my throat. Not at all painful but uncomfortable when swallowing. She said to remember a lot of tugging went on during surgery to cause the swelling.

Adjustment to my Synthroid may take three months, or may not depending on my body. We'll see.

Two weeks post op
Two weeks post op | Source

Thyroid Disease

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35 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 17 months ago from Olympia, WA

Well I'm very glad you are back with us and feeling better. I just think articles like this one are so very important. Raising awareness....sharing important information...better informing others...this is what writers do...and it's what human beings should do.

Thanks for the info, Mary, and welcome back.


thumbi7 profile image

thumbi7 17 months ago from India

I have hypothyroidism. My thyroids are a bit enlarged. But thank God it may not require surgery. Your article is very informative


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 17 months ago from Central Florida

Mary, I'm glad you're recovering well. I didn't know the thyroid could be removed. How does the body react to that? How does it compensate?


marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 17 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

Informative - especially meaningful and useful as we get to learn as we hear about your journey and progress, dear friend.

Your photos show beautiful healing after one week. You are truly an 'honorary' nurse!

Love you and thanks for sharing! Hugs, Maria


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 17 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Hello Mary - Good to know you are mending. Slowly and surely. Take good care of yourself and we are all grateful that you are alright.


DJ Anderson 17 months ago

Mary, this is a most informative hub. You are a brave woman to show

your healing scar.

My mother had hyperthyroidism and although she was nervous at a

cat in a room full of rocking chairs, she remained delightfully slender.

Later, she, too, had to have her thyroid removed.

I thought maybe, just maybe, something good would happen to me, like

hyper thyroid. Nooo, I have hypo thyroid. Do you know what that means? It means that God hates me and I will have to fight a weight issue for the rest of you fat life.

When I was in my 40's I had a hyper parathyroid that had to be removed.

I don't know why he called it hyper parathyroid, I thought it had died. He said once one is removed, usually others will follow. What a pessimistic doctor!

Well, now I have hypercalcemia which means that my calcium levels

are very high in my blood. Guess what the symptom of hyper parathyroidism is? High levels of calcium in the blood stream!! It just

keeps getting better!!!!

Trust me. After 10-15 years, you will not even think about that scar.

Not to worry. After another 10-15 years, you may can play tic-tac-toe

with all the scars on your torso. I know, I can.

Take care and heal well.

DJ.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 17 months ago from UK and Mexico

What a well written and extremely interesting article, especially to me who suffers from an underactive thyroid and have taken varying doses of Levothyroxine for about 5 years, which has it reading correctly. I am due to go again next week.

Brave of you to put those pics on! I had no idea the thyroid was quite so complex and vital; I will pay more attention to that area in the future.

Bob

ps Now I am a "level 3 commenter" after being an 8 for years! Only breeds resentment Hubpages, not encouragement


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 17 months ago from southern USA

Dear Mary,

I am so happy you are recovering well and well enough to write this informative article here. It seems since last week, I have been learning a lot about the endocrine system, so your hub is very timely ...

Wow, that is a sensitive area for an incision for sure.

God bless you!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 17 months ago from New York Author

Thank you for appreciating this hub Bill. I agree, each thing we do that might help another is a reason to write! Experience is a good way to learn, and teach.

Thumbi, good luck with your thyroid. Mine was hypo for years!

Sha, your body technically, cannot function without the hormones the thyroid produces , so Synthroid (Levothyroxine) is given to replace the missing hormones and helps to restore the balance in your body.

Maria, thanks for the biggest compliment I could receive, "honorary nurse"! Love you too my dear, dear friend.

Thanks so much Mike. Your support through my little journey has been appreciated so much.

DJ, I guess at my age little things like scars are of no importance. Sorry about your hypercalcemia. I would imagine that is difficult to treat. Isn't it strange your thyroid is hypo and your parathyroids are hyper? Not much we can do DJ but follow directions and hope for the best and I certainly wish you the best.

Bob I was on Levothyroxine for about twenty years before my thyroid and its accompanying nodules decided to get totally out of hand! I learned a lot when I realized mine had to be removed. You are certainly more than a level three to all of us! Remember, HP is made up of its members and loyal followers.

Thank you Faith. It has been a learning experience for sure. I have been seeing an endocrinologist for years but wasn't totally aware of the thyroid's vital part in that system. Hugs and blessings to you dear friend.


Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 17 months ago from Oklahoma

My mother-in-law had this procedure. It was a real ordeal to diagnos and recover from, but she lives a relatively normal life now.

Great hub.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 17 months ago from New York Author

Larry it certainly is a pain in the neck (pardon the pun). Glad to hear your mother-in-law is doing well now. I'm waiting to see how my body is adjusting to the new dose of synthroid without a thyroid.


BlossomSB profile image

BlossomSB 17 months ago from Victoria, Australia

So glad it's over and hope you're feeling really well soon. Thank you for such an interesting description of the problem and procedure. When I was young it was quite common for people from Gippsland (Victoria, Australia) to have a goitre as they lived away from the sea and did not have enough iodine in their diet.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 17 months ago from New York Author

Blossom, I remember when I was a little girl there was a lady in our neighborhood with this big thing hanging from her neck. Of course it was a goiter but I didn't know that then.

I hope this hub can help put someone at ease.


drbj profile image

drbj 17 months ago from south Florida

Thanks, Mary, for this very interesting and informative explanation regarding the thyroid gland and your thyroidectomy experience. I'm happy for you that the ordeal is over and wish you the best of health going forward. Your willingness to share your experience may well have saved the life of more than one reader of this Hub.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 17 months ago from The Beautiful South

Went through cervical spinal surgery a few weeks back so kinda know what you went through. Had to have a bar and some hip bone added to my spine and they go through the throat. (I put a pic of my after surgery lump in hub about it.) Looks like your goiter. lol

Isn't it amazing what they can do today with so little side effect? Just like you I turned down the prescription medicine. Why go through that surgery and take a pain pill that could kill you? I still take a Tylenol and coated aspirin 3x a day but pretty much over the really bad pain.

My grandmother had goiters taken off her neck and it looked horrible but that was decades ago. I did think iodized salt took care of goiters though? But I guess not; thanks for sharing this with us.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 17 months ago from New York Author

drbj my hope is to have someone suffering from thyroid disease learn something here. Thanks for the good wishes. I am still amazed at how quickly this is healing.

Oh Jackie I am so sorry to hear about your surgery. I had a slipped disc last year and it was unbelievably painful! Yes, the medical field today is amazing, thank God! I have a friend who had the surgery twenty years ago and her scar is at least six inches and fairly visible. Iodized salt does help but genetically prone people are still going to get a goiter.


lindacee profile image

lindacee 17 months ago from Southern Arizona

So glad the surgery was successful and you are healing and feeling better. I just had a thyroid biopsy. My thyroid panel came back normal, but I have a small goiter on the left side that's apparently been there for quite a long time as the nodules are calcified. Thankfully no cancer, but the Dr. says I should have an ultrasound every year or two just to be on the safe side. Great Hub and thanks for sharing!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 17 months ago from New York Author

I wish you the best of luck Linda. Maybe if they're calcified they won't grow. Mine have been monitored every six months for many years. Glad you enjoyed reading my experience.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 17 months ago from Shelton

til, thank you so much for sharing your experience with us..but it's scary just hearing the need for removal of all or part of the thyroid gland. the thumb nail photos are so graphic.. just want to wish you blessings and safe haven now and in the future...


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 17 months ago from New York Author

Glad you enjoyed my "no holds barred" expose! I appreciate your good wishes which mean a lot to me. Thank you.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 17 months ago from Stillwater, OK

Sounds like you went through quite an ordeal. Glad that all is well, and definitely take care!


Genna East profile image

Genna East 17 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

Hi Mary. I'm pleased you are on the mend. I had Hypothyroidism as a young teenager, but apparently grew out of since I haven't experienced any further problems. I'm sorry you had to experience this surgery, Mary, but it appears that you were in good medical hands, and were lucky. Although a full recovery will take months, I have no doubt that your positive attitude has, and will continue to aid in the healing process. I admire your courage, and for sharing this with everyone. Kudos and hugs, my friend.


Matt Easterbrook5 profile image

Matt Easterbrook5 17 months ago from Oregon

Mary I am glad your surgery was a huge success. I wish you the very best in an expedient recovery. Your hub was very informative and interesting. Your pictures were also a nice addition. You were very brave to go through with your surgery and it is a great article for anyone who has the condition read and put their own mind to rest if they do have to undergo the same surgery. Get well and thanks for sharing!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 17 months ago from New York Author

It was certainly an experience I didn't expect Deb. Thanks, I'm taking it semi-slow.

Genna I was fortunate. My doctor wasn't exactly sociable but those at the hospital and around said he is the best. I am pleased with the way things went. Yes, the P.A. said at least three months for everything to heal. Thanks for the hugs my friend. Sharing is what we are all about ;)

Matt, thank you. Hopefully this hub will help a person or two in the same condition. There might be someone postponing the surgery our of fear and this well help. Obviously the younger you are when you have the surgery the easier it is on your body.


alexadry profile image

alexadry 15 months ago from USA

Thank you for posting this interesting Hub that explained well the condition and surgery involved. My mother in law had goiter and often complained of the annoying associated symptoms. Sharing your experience will help many others. Voted up!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 15 months ago from New York Author

Alexadry, I hope this will help others. It is scary, but not at as bad as some might think. Thanks for the vote.


Vellur profile image

Vellur 15 months ago from Dubai

The operation must have been scary and am glad you are okay now. Never knew about this till I read your hub, thank you for sharing and take care.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 15 months ago from New York Author

Thanks Vellur. It was definitely intimidating since I didn't know too much about it either. Thankfully, I'm fine and it wasn't as bad as I thought. Hugs.


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 15 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

GF....what are we going to do with you? I worry about you! If you don't mind, I would like this to be your LAST health issue! Thank you.

Awww...the picture of you post-op with your boo boo bandaged....my poor baby girlfriend. ISH! I could have done w/o seeing your scar. I could NEVER be a nurse! It upsets me to even know someone is in pain, much less SEE it up close & personal. I'm glad you bounce back as well as you do.

Thank you so much for the GREAT education on the thyroid. I knew just the basics, but you gave quite the lesson!

Get better and stay that way!! Peace & Good health, Tillie!


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 15 months ago from Oakley, CA

Wow, Mary--that was quite an experience you went through. I can't even imagine; I'm such a wuss.

Glad it all went well, and you'll be your old self in no time at all. From the location of the scar, I don't think it will be at all noticeable with your head in a normal everyday "doing stuff" position.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 15 months ago from New York Author

Well Paula, I guess I'm just one of the lucky ones. As I get older I get hit with all the s*&^ I missed when I was younger! I'm hoping this is it for a while.

I should probably post an updated picture of the scar, it's unbelievable how well it is healing, kudos to the surgeon.

Thank you my friend for always being there for me. Hugs.

Thanks Miss Lizzy. The scar will probably be totally unnoticeable in another three or four months. Deep down we're all a bit of a wuss, but then life happens. Have a great day!


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 14 months ago

When I saw this, I was interested in your experience. I had mine out in 2010, and the most I remember was being thankful I was too hoarse to talk to my roommate in the hospital. My family has a history of TSH problems, and my sister committed suicide at age 30 because of what I'm sure was depression from an undiagnosed TSH problem. My doctor was aware of this, and when he saw nodules on my thyroid, he sent me to x-ray and then to surgery as soon as it could be scheduled. No biopsy, he said that could be done after surgery. Thankfully, no cancer.

I've had some issues with adjusting to levothyroxin, but that seems to have been straightened out. I'd like to assure you that in a year or so your scar will have virtually disappeared, and you will be as pretty as ever. Nobody notices mine unless I point it out. It seems that a too high percentage of employees where I work have had theirs removed, and since we are from different areas of the state and out of state, I wonder why.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 14 months ago from New York Author

MizBejabbers, I'm glad all went well for you and sorry to hear about your sister. We are always learning about our bodies and how one thing can set the whole system off balance.

It does seem more people are having their thyroids removed. It certainly does make you wonder.


LaurieNunley517 profile image

LaurieNunley517 10 months ago from Deep South

it looks like you healed very well. I had Hyperthyroidism in the 80s. Graves Disease. I had radioactive iodine twice and goiter. Finally had thyroidectomy. It was a rough go and ended up with autoimmune disease. I am really glad you are doing well! It's great that you are keeping people informed about this serious condition. Thank you!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 10 months ago from New York Author

Sorry to hear you had so much trouble Laurie. Hope all is under control now. I probably should add a photo of my "scar" now, it is barely visible. I am only to glad to share and hopefully help someone else.

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