Following thyroid surgery, a patient will need to take some time to recover. But they should soon be able to return to their usual activities. The healthcare team will give them exercises and tips to speed up the recovery. 


The recovery will depend on the extent and type of surgery performed. It takes longer to recover from traditional, open surgery than from a minimally invasive procedure.

Following surgery, the below may be experienced:

  • Voice changes, such as a hoarse voice, difficulty in speaking loudly, voice fatigue, and a change in the tone of the voice. These changes are due to damage to the laryngeal nerves that supply the voice box (larynx) during surgery. This may last a few days or a few weeks but is rarely permanent.
  • May experience low blood calcium levels due to damage to the parathyroid glands during surgery. Again, this is usually only a temporary problem treated with calcium supplements over a few days. Signs that a patient may have low calcium are numbness and a tingling feeling in the lips, hands, and the bottom of the feet, a crawly feeling in the skin, muscle cramps and spasms, bad headaches, anxiety, and depression.

In the days right after surgery, they will need to take care of your incision area(s). Depending on the type of dressing (covering) on the wound, they may or may not be allowed to bathe, shower, or swim until healing is well underway. There might be bruising or slight swelling around the scar. This is normal. But if there is any significant swelling, the surgeon should be contacted right away as this could be a sign of infection.

The scar may gradually turn pink and feel hard. The hardening is generally greatest at about three weeks after the operation and then reduces over the next two to three months. It can help to rub a small amount of non-scented moisturising cream around the wound as this helps to soften the skin and prevent dryness as it heals. 

The patient will need to take at least one or two weeks to recover before returning to work and other daily activities. They should not lift any heavy objects for about two weeks after the operation to avoid any strain on the neck.

The neck is likely to be swollen and may feel hard and numb right after the surgery. This is normal and will gradually get better as the wound heals. As soon as the patient can turn their head without pain or difficulty (within about a week), they should be able to resume driving and other daily activities including non-contact sports. The hospital physiotherapist will probably recommend some gentle neck and shoulder exercises. These will help prevent any permanent stiffness. It is important to follow the physiotherapist's instructions. If  problems with pain or stiffness continue, contact the doctor.

While the neck is stiff and sore, the patient may need to eat foods that are soft and easy to swallow. Make sure they eat slowly and have plenty to drink during and after meals to soften the food and prevent blockages. It may help to use a blender to process solid foods.

The patient will need to visit the doctor or surgeon a few times after  surgery to check on hormone levels and healing. At these visits, they will receive advice on how soon they can return to  daily activities.


People who have a total thyroidectomy and most people who have a subtotal thyroidectomy will need to take thyroid replacement drugs (thyroxine) for the rest of their lives.

Without this thyroid hormone replacement, people experience tiredness, depression, difficulty concentrating, memory problems, unexplained or excessive weight gain, dry skin, coarse and/or itchy skin, dry hair, hair loss, feeling cold (especially in the feet and hands), constipation, muscle cramps, joint pains, increased menstrual flow, low sex drive, and more frequent periods.

The hormone replacement tablets are small and easy to take. A doctor will check  hormone levels on a regular basis and adjust the dose of thyroxine until it is right for the patient.