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Total Thyoidectomy for Substernal Goiter

My TT for substernal goiter is quickly approaching (next Tues, May 16th) and would appreciate any information from those who have gone through this surgery re length of surgery, pain, recuperation period, and any other general information to calm my "frazzled" nerves !!!

Thanks so much!
51 Responses
97953 tn?1440868992
Most do very well - the recovery varies but is usually 7-14 days.  Your surgeon should be able to give you lots of info on what to expect.  Will need to be on thyroid meds after surgery (starting 1-2 days post-op in most cases) if indeed it is a total thyroidectomy.
Avatar universal
Your surgery is the day before mine...I'm a bit of a mess too.  Everything I've read indicates this is a fairly "easy" surgery to recover from...BUT...I know what you're feeling and I'm a little jealous you get yours over a day before me.  I just can't wait till it's done and over with, I'm so sick of thinking about it!  I wish you the best of luck with your surgery and please post when you can and let us know how it went...I will do the same.
Avatar universal
Good luck on your surgery too.

My original date for the surgery was April 12th but was postponed due to a very bad cold. So it has been a very long wait for me. Like you I will be glad when this is over but I'm still very nervous and anxious - Have never had an operation before nor been a patient in a hospital. Surgeon said will have to stay either 1-2 days in the hospital. I'm pushing for only overnight - the only reason I would have to stay an extra day is if there is a low calcium issue.

Do you know how long you will be staying at the hospital? I am trying to stay calm but as you well know it is very hard.

We'll get through this !!!!!!
Avatar universal
My doc told me 1-4 days in the hospital depending on the calcium too (and like you, I'm pushing for one day!).  I've talked to and read about so many people having this surgery and just about every single person said it's not as bad as we are thinking it is...but I know what you mean.  It's just the fact of being under anesthesia and all that...I have been "out" about four times in my life and the only side effect I have from it is nausea (which they took care of with meds).  I'm trying to be brave, I have moments of sheer panic though.  I have the pre op appt tomorrow...have you had yours yet?  If so, would you let me know what it consisted of?  I had the FNA done in February and then had to wait to see a surgeon and then had to wait till I came home from vacation...yes...the waiting stinks!  I wish I just did it in February!  Oh well...you're right...we will get through this!
Avatar universal
Hi - I just had a total thyroidectomy last Wed., May 3rd.  I'm doing fine.  I would be glad to help you with your questions about the how you feel afterwards and the recovery.  I have to say, the first night in recovery for me was the worst.  Every day since has gotten better.  You will be very uncomfortable for the first couple of days, but make sure you have someone to take care of you.  The hardest part for me was finding the right pillows to put behind my head so my neck didn't feel any pressure.  I'm 40 years old, married and I stayed with my parents for the first 2 nights after surgery.  By Sat. I went home and was much much better.  Tomorrow is a week since my surgery, I'm eating whatever I want now, the first couple of days I didn't even want to eat, and I'm feeling so much better.  I go back to the surgeon on Thursday, he told me to stay out of work for 2 weeks after the surgery, but I'm already going crazy with boredom.

If I can be of help to you, please feel free to ask me.  I don't want to scare you about the first night of recovery.  For the most part, I was sick from the anthesthia, so that was why it was so bad for me.  Once I got transferred to my own room, I didn't feel any pain from the neck because of the pain killers they gave me.  Once I left the hospital, I only used the pain killers for 2 days after that.  Good luck to both of you!
Avatar universal
HI! I am so sorry you both have to go through surgery this week. You will be fine. It just isn't very fun! I had a total thyroidectomy 2 weeks ago today. I am feeling ALOT better now.
I didn't stay in the hospital. I left the hospital at 8PM that same day. Staying overnight probably would have been good except now the hospital has whopping cough so I am glad I didn't stay! The 3rd day was the worst for me. I just felt lousy. THe pain isn't that bad. I was only on the pain med's for 3 days and now I take a little Advil but mostly for my headache!
The weirdest thing for me was the frozen neck and lower lip.
It didn't hurt so much, it was numb from the surgery.It went away after 1 week. It is all OK now. But after a few days I got gas in my chest and I couldn't burp since my throat area was numb. I got a bit of anxiety about that but my husband would burp me like a baby and then I would be fine. So for the next 3 days I would need to get burped! I fet crummy from the anestistia for the first 10 days and then it lifted. I ate a little soup for the first 3-4 days and scrambled eggs tasted great. I made chicken in the crock pot so it would be real soft .Then I could eat anything  I go out once a day now, starting at 1 week. I feel OK for an hour out and then I get very tired and come home and rest. I am due to start work tomorrow part time. It will probably be exhausting. I don't know with this list if we are allowed to give out our email addresses but I would like to stay connected the total thyroidectomy people so we can help support each other.
GOOD-LUCK WITH YOUR SURGERIES! Sending lot's of healing thoughts and blessings.
Avatar universal
Hey - you sound like you've had a rougher time of it than me, so far at least.  I do know what you mean about the pain with burping.  Also, yawning hurts bad too!

I only had to stay overnight the 1st night after surgery.  Today, I actually am feeling nauseous and thought it may be from the Synthroid but the Dr.'s office said there's a stomach virus going around so that may be what I have because Synthroid shouldn't cause nauseau.  After reading your post, I'm wondering if I'm still having effects from anesthia too, I also was nauseous a little bit a couple of days ago too.  

Are you feeling tired because you're adjusting to the thyroid medicine?

Glad you're feeling better and hope you keep it going that way every day!
Avatar universal
Hey - I've been taking the medicine when I first wake up too - maybe I will try tomorrow to take it after I've had breakfast.  Thanks for letting me know that!  It's nice to have input from others that are going through the same thing!

Can't wait to try it differently tomorrow!  Thanks for the advice!
Avatar universal
You two are great to respond and help ease our minds.  Thank you.  You have no idea how much it helps to read your experiences (for me at least).  As far as you both having nausea, were you already on Synthroid before you had the surgery?  I am on 150mcgs right now and take it first thing in the morning and have no problems with it.  I'll have to pay attention to that after the surgery.  If I can ask...why did you each have to have your thyroid removed?  I'm also curious how long your surgeries lasted.  I read on here not long ago about someone's being five hours long...but they still had a great recovery.  I can't wait till I can help ease someone's mind too!  =)
Avatar universal
I  felt nausaus, too, every day since the surgery.
The doctor thought it may be that I have Crohn's but that doesn't make me nausaus. I asked about the throid med's and they said it wasn't that.BUT, I had been taking them at 5 am when I first woke up in the morning. Everyday.. nausaus. TODAY, I tried something. I waited to take it until 2 hours after I ate breakfast and I FEEL SO MUCH BETTER.I am not nausaus for the first time since surgery. At first I was so tired I was in bed alot during the day. The Dr. thought it could be from the anesthia. I asked him if it could be from the amount of thyroid meds and he said I still have the thyroid hormones from before the surgery and it will take 6 weeks for my levels to be accurately measured. In fact, I don't see him again until 6 weeks from the surgery.
I went to a well known teaching hospital and he is head of the clinic so I know he is a very qualified surgeon. I hope your stomach is feeling better. I wouldn't want to be catching a stomach flu right now or you either!
Avatar universal
Hi - My surgery only last 2 1/2 hours - that's what the surgeon told my family.  They told me that the average surgery for total thyroidectomy is 3 hours.

I had to have the surgery because of a dominant nodule that kept growing.  I was having ultra sounds every 3 months and only this dominant nodule grew a little bit every time, even though the biopsy always came up benign, they told me that after 3 biopsies in a year, the surgery couldn't be put off any longer.  I also had nodules on the other side too, so to avoid any future worries, they talked me into a total thryoidectomy.  I just got the pathology results back yesterday and everything came out benign!!!!!  The first thing I said to my Dr. was that I didn't need the surgery afer all, and he said, no, that's not true, that the nodules can change at any moment, and now I won't ever have to worry about it again!  Why are you having the surgery?

I have never been on Sythroid before until Sunday.  If you are already taking it, then you should feel much better than me!  They started me on the same dose as you, 150mcgs - so I'm glad to know that you have no problems on that yourself.

You will be fine!!!!!  I know how you feel because I was anxious too before, but once it happens, time goes by fast because you'll be so sleepy for the first couple of days!  I can't wait for you to be easing someone's mind too, you will!
Avatar universal
I had not been on Synthroid before the surgery.
The reason for my surgery was that I had tumors (nodules, maybe??) in both sides of my thyroid that kept growing.
I had a FNA and they had a solid componant to them. The biopsy came back that they were hurthle cells looking like they were follicular tumors. But they couldn't tell if they were benign or not. I got the biopsy results back 10 days after the surgery and they were all benign. I really don't understand in this day and age of medicine why they can't tell from the biopsy if they are malignant or not. Surgery seems so extreme to have to do if it isn't cancer.
I, too, told the surgeon that I wish they hadn't done the surgery and he said "they needed to come out, they could change to cancer and they were growing would evertually have to come out."
Karmike- the directions for taking the Synthroid are to wait 2 hours after your meal so if you do try taking it after breakfast, make sure you wait the 2 hours. I haven't felt nausaus all day for the first time since surgery. I was out for a long time today taking my dog to the chiropracter and I am unbelievably tired. But I did alright taking him alone and driving 1 1/4 hours to get there. He has a partially torn ACL poor guy).
Oh, my surgery took 2 1/2 hours.  I have had quite a few surgeries.This was definately the least painful. The pain really isn't that bad. Oh, there is one other thing to expect. There are 2 different pains the 1st 2 days. One is the incision. The other is a medium sore throat from the tube they put down your throat during the surgery. The pain killers took that sore throat right away. The 2nd day I was only taking one of the painkillers and I was feeling pain still. So my neighbor a nurse told me I should take 2 like they prescibed and it helped alot more. By day 4 I only took one at night and then none.
Glad to ease some worry. The anticipation isn't fun. Try to take your mind off of it and it will soon be over and you'll be on the mend again.
Avatar universal
Yes, I have already done my pre-op tests which included blood work, urinalysis, chest xray and ekg done. All kept back fine. My doctor told me that I should be in the hospital between 1-2 days and that my surgery should only take about 2 hrs. I sure hope he is right !!! I have a large substernal goiter but according to my surgeon it should still be removed the same way as if it wasn't substernal.

I was told to insist that Zofran be included in my IV to prevent nausea afterwards. My surgeon said that it is always put in the IV nowadays but I will mention it again on the operating table before I am put out.

To those who have already gone through the total thyroidectomy, were you given thyroid replacement meds before you left the hospital? Has anyone been able to get a prescription from their doctor before the surgery for the thyroid replacement meds and pain killer so that it isn't necessary to stop at the drug store after being released from the hospital? Also, did you have a drain tube after the surgery? According to my surgeon if one is needed, it will be removed before I leave the hospital.

Thanks everyone for all the great information! One more week for me to go before surgery - Starting to get "very nervous".

Avatar universal
Ok...to answer a couple of questions.  I'm having my thyroid removed because I have Hashimoto's with a large nodule.  FNA came back "off"...high lymphocytes and other than that they couldn't really tell.  It's grown with each ultrasound, and as of right now my thyroid is huge.  I have no pain at all and it doesn't bother me (other than my neck looking like a linebacker's!).  I guess when you have Hashi's the incidence to develop Lymphoma is greatly increased so in a way this is a "peace of mind" surgery.  My endo has pushed for it though.  I'm almost wanting to back out of it...but I know I'll regret it.  It's an unhealthy "part" in my body that really isn't serving much of a purpose...and it's also making my TSH very unstable as it sputters back to life here and there and makes me go hyperthyroid at times...SOOOO that all being said, it feels like the right thing to do for me...even though I am starting to freak out about the surgery.

I hear what you both are saying about feeling like you may have had an unnecessary surgery, but really you have eliminated any "what ifs" from your life.  I'm so happy for you both that it was benign.  I have an online friend who didn't have that news and she went through a lot with her thyroid cancer...but she's doing great now.  I agree that they should have a more fool proof test other than surgery though.  

I'm curious about that drain Carole mentioned too...did you guys have that?  

Carole, it's so weird waiting for this surgery...the panic comes in waves...sometimes I'm fine...like "ok...this is going to be ok"...other times I'm like "WHAT AM I DOING???".  I almost feel a little crazy!  I haven't had surgery since I was 17 and I'm 42 now...so...it's been a while.  I can't imagine what you must feel never having had surgery.  I know how scared you are because I'm feeling just the same way...but I will say that hearing these two stories gave me a bit more strength and courage.  I might have to re-read them each day though!  =) I can't wait for the 16th and 17th to come so this will be in the rear view mirror and we can post with happy news.
Avatar universal
I have had 7 surgeries and this was the least painful and today is 2 days and 1 week and i am going to go to work part of the day today. I would encourage you to yes,feel your feelings about the surgery and try not to dwell on them. I honestly have to say I wasn't scared before hand. I definately wasn't HAPPY about the situation, but I wasn't scared. The nurse at the surgeons office told me that you have a better chance of getting harmed out on the road then in surgery. They will take good care of you. No, I didn't have a drain but in. Beforehand, they said I might if there was alot of bleeding, and that would have meant I stayed in the hospital, but I didn't. The anestisioloigst will come talk to you when they are prepping you for the surgery, before you go into the OR, so you can ask him about the anti-nausea medicine. I tell them that I get very nauseas and motion sickenss and they give me a big dose(which is true!). I have never thrown-up after surgergy. GOOD-lUCK with the upcoming week. Perhaps you could get a massage. That would feel so good and help you relax. The week before, I perpared by doing a big  food shopping so I would have food in the freezer and cleaned the house so it would be nice when I was home so much recuperating.
Avatar universal
Good morning evryone! To answer the question about the draining tube, no I didn't have to have one after the surgery.  When I stayed overnight in the hospital, I still had an IV in and also a catheter, that was it.  

My Dr. didn't give me the prescriptions until he came to see me the next morning to release me.  You may be able to get samples of the Synthroid from your endo before the surgery.  My endo gave me samples on Monday when I went to see him, although I'd already filled the prescrip.  Unfortunately, you will probably need to stop at pharmacy for pain killers.  The good thing about is that you might not need one right away because they will be giving you pain killers at the hospital.  What they wrote out my prescription for was Vicodin and I'd already had a prescription for it, so that made it easier for me.  But I stopped taking it completely on the 3rd day out of surgery.

I wish the biopsies they do can be 100% proof, but the way they described it to me is that they can only get such a small percentage of the nodules in the needle for the biopsy, that if it comes back benign, there isn't any guarantee that there isn't any malignancy in the rest of the nodule.  My mother has multiple nodules and goes to a different endocrinologist than I do.  He tested her for hot or cold nodules.  I forget which ones are ok, but she has that.  Anways she's been monitored for years and hers haven't grown.  My endo doesn't believe in the hot/cold method anymore.

Oh - they did put something in my IV to take away my nausea after I complained about it so definitely mention Zofran before the surgery.

bananie22 - you will be so glad to get this "unhealthy part" of your body removed!  The fact that you're already on the medicine too, I think you'll do better than those of us who've never been on it before.

countrycarole - you're going do just fine!  This was my first stay in the hospital myself.  I was upset to break my perfet record of never having to spend a night in the hospital. I was treated so well though.  The day of my surgery was probably the least nervewracking(?) to me.  Once I was admitted in the hospital, the nurses made me feel so much better!  I hope it goes as smooth for you as it did for me, that goes for you too, bananie22!

maccie - Thanks for the info. on the Sythroid again, I ate breakfast at 8:15 am today and will take the pill at 10:15, I'm not nauseous yet today so far!  I hope your dog is ok!!!!!!  Glad your feeling better - right now I feel so good, I want to clean my house, but since it's been exactly a week since surgery, I will only do a little bit at a time, no vaccumming yet, although I'm going crazy from my dog's hair all over the place.

Have a great day everyone!  I'm sure we'll be chatting later!
Avatar universal
Went for the pre op stuff, it was pretty basic...only thing is now it feels so real!  I'm in a better place today than I was yesterday...there really is no accounting for why our minds panic one minute and you find peace the next...for now I'm enjoying a good mental moment.  =)

I heard so many good things about my surgeon today from different nurses and even a couple of patients.  He's a cosmetic surgeon as well as an ENT (maybe I should have some "work" done while I'm out?) and he got rave reviews for his surgical skills, that alone can make you feel better.

Maccie...I thought torn ACL's were for football players only!  How in the world did your dog manage that?  Poor guy...I have two dogs so I sure know how helpless you feel when they are hurt.  I just got home from vacation and I think I missed them more than anything (or anyone!).  I'm sure you're providing him the best care...a chiropractor?  I thought I was bad when I got mine accupuncture.  ;)  

Thanks again for the support you two have given. One week!  Yikes!
Avatar universal
Hey bananie22 - glad you feel more comfortable with your surgery after hearing good things about your surgeon.  I was real comfortable with mine too - he's known as the "best" in my town for this procedure, that is a huge comfort knowing other people think so too. Hope you are still in a good place!  It is a crazy thing how we can drive ourselves crazy with anxiety one minute and then be calm the next, but being able to find that peace, is a wonderful thing in itself!

I took the Synthroid 2 hours after breakfast today and I was more nauseous than ever today!  My endo is switching me to Armour Thyroid.  Have any of you heard of this?  He said some people do better on one than the other so tomorrow will be a new day with the new meds.

I got real bad news about a friend of mine today - she died of a brain aneurysm very suddenly.  Her boyfriend of many years is in so much pain.  The only good that came out of this for me today was that I didn't feel so bad for myself when I felt so bad (nauseous) - it puts things in perspective a little bit anyways!  So I hope y'all have a good night and enjoy your loved ones, people and pets. I know how y'all feel about loving your pets, I have 1 dog and 5 cats, and I have enjoyed being home with my babies all week!  They are such a comfort!!!!!
Avatar universal
To Karmike: So sorry to hear the bad news about your friend. What a shock!
Bananine 22: Glad your pre-op was uneventful.I agree with you EEK - one week (actually less than that for me) until surgery.
Maccie:  Hope your dog is doing better.
I am not currently on any thyroid meds because I am neither hypo or hyper. I am not sure how I will react to the thyroid replacement medication. My endo said he will be giving me Synthroid and the surgeon gives Percocet for pain. I am hoping to only need to take Extra Strength Tylenol when I get home for the pain but I'll just have to wait and see.
The reason I am having my surgery is due to a very large substernal goiter which is definitely visible on my neck. It has moved my trachea over to the other side and even though I do not have any symptoms now such as breathing or swallowing difficulties, that could change and then it would become an emergency surgery which I wouldn't want to do.

Thanks everyone for the great support. I am looking forward to posting again after my surgery saying that "it wasn't so bad" after all. I have one more question if you don't mine (even though it might sound silly) but since I've never been in a hospital before, exactly what does one need to take to the hospital? (such as bathrobe, slippers, etc?)Thanks.

Avatar universal
I was so, very tired after I went to work yesterday and my neck was sore, but I rested when I got home and I felt much better. It's good to know I recuperate after a rest now. This morning my neck wasn't sore and I feel good.
Karmike- I am so sorry about your friend. Such a shock. It is wonderful to have our animals for comfort. My 2 dogs slept on my bed with me and were happy I have been home. They both have strained ACL because they are big and very active. I am not nauseous anymore. I hope you feel better. It is a lousy feeling. People seem to be switching to Armour of late. It is from a pig so it is not synthetic.I sure hope it works for you.
countrycarole- you don't need much for the hospital. A small toilet bag..a hairbrush..they supply toothpaste ( and a toothbrush if you don't bring your own). You don't need a bathrobe or PJ'a, they give them to you . Slippes would be good.I sometimes bring some kind of headset with music if you are not in a single room it blocks out the noice of the hospital. I bring relaxation tapes but not if I was going to stay just one night. I personally bring my pillow, but that comes everywhere with me!
Babanie22- thanks for the kind works about my dogs!
It is amazing to watch the brain and the control we have over it.
Very useful for healing.
Karmike- I really hope your nauseousness goes away again.
I'm off to work. I hope it goes OK.
Avatar universal
Hi - I feel much better today after taking the Armour! No nausea!!!!!!!

maccie - I hope you feel good today when you get home from work! Glad that after you rested yesterday, it helped.  I thought I had a big dog, 95 lb. golden retriever!  What kind are yours?  I guess taking them to a chiropractor helps them stay active then?  We have 1 chiropractor in town that treats animals.  I always thought it was a good idea, I go to one myself.  Thanks for the info on the armour!

bananie22 and countrycarole - hope you're both in a good place today in your minds!  Try to have great weekends and get a lot of things done for yourselves so you can just rest after the surgery!  Maccie answered the question about what to bring to the hospital. Hopefully your stay will be a short one, and you will be able to sleep through most of it!

Hope everyone had a good day today!
Avatar universal
Karmike...that's awful about your friend.  I lost a dear friend from the same thing...she was only 32.  It's so sad.  

Just wanted to check in with the two recovery gals, and Carole, my surgery buddy.  I hope you all are doing well today.  I'm cleaning and paying bills and getting all organized so I can come home from surgery and veg out with no worries.  I will do a big shopping closer to the surgery and stock up on some...well what do you guys suggest?  Ice cream?  =)  Soup?  
Just plugging along today...hope you all are well and happy.
Avatar universal
Hi everyone. Thanks again for all the great information and support.

To my "surgery buddy": I am also trying to catch up this weekend on things that I need to do pre-surgery. I worked today but am taking this Monday off (the day before my surgery) because I just knew I would not be able to concentrate on working! I will return to work the day after Memorial day (May 30th).
Tonight I did my "after surgery" food shopping. Bought soup, instant mashed potatoes, noodles, pudding, applesauce, ice cream, ices, eggs and some frozen foods that are soft to eat. I just hope I didn't buy too many soft foods!!!

Like you, I am also paying bills, doing some washing and cleaning up. What time is your surgery scheduled for? Mine is at 11:30 AM but would have preferred it earlier but that is all that was available. Did your surgeon mention how long the surgery would last?

Avatar universal
Sorry karmike - your name should have been included along with bananie22 & maccie on the "Comment To" on my previous post. My finger slipped !!!!!!
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