What You Need to Know about Thyroid Removal Side Effects

September 2, 2021
William Hanner D.O.

Are you and your doctor discussing the possibility of thyroid surgery? If so, it is likely that you have many questions about what to expect once the procedure is completed. To help you plan for your recovery,  we have gathered answers to some of the most commonly asked questions we receive from our thyroid patients—so you can be well informed, feel confident in your care, and move forward into better health.

What Is the Thyroid?

The thyroid is a small gland that produces hormones that regulate your body’s metabolism and calcium levels. It is situated at the front of the neck, below the larynx—and it has two lobes, one on each side of your windpipe. The amount of hormone it makes must be delicately balanced. When too much or too little is released, it can cause many symptoms that are problematic for your wellness.

When Is It Recommended to Have the Thyroid Removed?

There are a number of dysfunctions that can occur with the thyroid, but not all of them require the full removal of the gland. A thyroidectomy (removal)  is major surgery, so it is not undertaken lightly. However, tour medical provider may recommend a thyroidectomy for several reasons, including:

  • Aggressive cancer of the thyroid that cannot be treated through other means
  • Benign lumps or growth that is large and disrupts breathing or swallowing
  • Large goiter—an enlargement of the thyroid typically caused when the gland is not making sufficient hormones to meet your body’s needs
  • Hyperthyroidism is due to an overactive thyroid that is not responding to less invasive treatments, as can be common with Graves’ disease
  • Hot nodules—a condition in which a portion of the thyroid overproduces the thyroid hormone
  • Thyrotoxicosis— a rapid worsening of an overactive thyroid, which can be life-threatening

What Should I Expect from the Thyroid Surgery Procedure?

The first step of providing you with the individualized treatment that is best for you is testing. A fine-needle aspiration biopsy is often performed to determine if hot nodules and growths are cancerous or benign. Other tests such as ultrasounds, blood tests to determine TSH (thyroid hormone) levels, and a physical examination all help determine the next way to treat your thyroid.

If the condition of your thyroid cannot be treated with medications or is not responding to less invasive treatments, partial or complete removal of the thyroid gland (a thyroidectomy) may be necessary.

What Side Effects Are Most Common after a Thyroidectomy?

Because the removal of the thyroid is a major surgical procedure performed under general anesthesia, you should expect some temporary symptoms related to such a surgery. This includes:

  • A drain may be placed under the incision in your neck immediately after the procedure. This drain is usually removed the next day.
  • Some minor nausea or fatigue due to the anesthesia, which normally passes within a day or two.
  • There may be hoarseness of the voice, soreness of the neck, or a weak voice. These symptoms are usually short-lived.
  • The recurrent laryngeal nerve in the neck may be damaged during the procedure, causing hoarseness or weakness of the voice. This nerve may heal on its own over time.

Will I Be Able to Eat and Drink after the Thyroid Removal Procedure?

Most people are able to eat and drink, with care, soon after the surgery is completed and the anesthesia has begun to wear off. 

What to Drink

Drink plenty of water and cold liquids, especially if it is painful to swallow.

What to Eat

Eat foods that are gentle on your throat and stomach for a day or two. Focus on soft foods such as ice cream, pudding, yogurt, canned fruit, cooked fruit, scrambled eggs, and mashed potatoes.

What to Avoid

Stay away from hard, scratchy foods like chips and raw vegetables. Do not drink orange juice, tomato juice, citrus, and other acidic foods that can sting the throat.

How Soon Can I Resume My Normal Activities after the Thyroidectomy?


Once you are home, rest often, especially when you feel tired. Get plenty of sleep. Place two or three pillows under your head to keep it raised when you recline.


In general, you may shower the day after your surgery. You will need to take care not to get any gauze or dressing wet. Do not rub the incision area harshly.

If you have a drain inserted near your incision, be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions to keep the drain clean and dry.

Light Activities

You may be able to resume many of your normal, light activities within a day or two. This includes walking daily to get gentle exercise and keep blood flowing. 

Vigorous Activities

Plan to wait a few weeks before you resume vigorous exercises such as sports or heavy lifting. Do not over-extend your neck backward for 2 weeks after surgery. 


Gentle massage can help to reduce scarring, but be aware that you should let the incision heal first. Massaging can begin two weeks after your thyroidectomy.

Will I Need Thyroid Hormone Replacement after Surgery?

The short answer to this question is—it depends on the procedure you have. Here’s a closer look:

Partial Thyroid Removal

If your doctor has removed only a portion of the thyroid, it is likely that the remaining portion of the gland will still continue to function well. The gland may produce sufficient thyroid hormone naturally, in which case hormone therapy might not be necessary.

Complete Thyroid Removal

If it is necessary to remove the entire thyroid, then there is no other way your body would be able to create thyroid hormone on its own. In this case, hormone replacement therapy is necessary to keep your metabolism and calcium levels within healthy ranges. 

What Will Life Be Like after My Thyroid is Removed?

Hormone Replacements

To make up for the loss of thyroid hormone after a complete thyroidectomy, your doctor will prescribe a pill of synthetic hormones. You will continue this treatment throughout your life.

Blood Tests

You will receive regular testing to be sure your thyroid hormone levels and blood calcium levels are acceptable.

Thyroid Tissue Testing

Your doctor will regularly check the remaining tissues for cancer, especially if thyroid cancer was the reason for your thyroidectomy.

Caring, Personalized Thyroid Treatment

Thyroid removal can be a significant medical decision, but it does not have to be overwhelming. At Midtown Surgical and Skin Institute, we provide individualized treatment that fits your specific situation, so you can get back to enjoying your life. We perform thyroid care all the time, and we are happy to provide you with a thorough consultation and answer any questions you have. Contact us to set up an appointment.

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