Thyroid surgery is usually intended to treat thyroid cancer or thyroid nodules. It is also occasionally used to treat hyperthyroidism, although this is relatively rare. The surgery involves removing part or all of the thyroid gland, and it is fairly safe and generally effective. It is still an invasive surgery however, and the one- to two-week recovery period does count on the patient to continue performing self-care.
The incisions made during a thyroid surgery usually heal quickly, but they can leave scars if they are not cared for properly. Here is what you need to do following a thyroid surgery to ensure that your incisions will heal with minimal scarring.
Washing the Incision
You can gently wash your incision only after doctors have removed your stitches and the incision is watertight. This usually occurs 24 to 36 hours after the surgery is complete; patients should avoid showering or taking a bath until this point, and avoid hot tubs or swimming for at least two weeks after surgery. When you wash your incision, do so gently with water and mild soap. Do not scrub at the incision, as doing so could irritate or even reopen the incision. Use a soft cloth to pat the area when washing, and be sure to dry it gently with a clean towel.
Keeping the Incision Covered
Your incision should heal within one to two weeks, but you should keep it covered for at least ten days following your procedure. Most doctors recommend waiting until the first post-operative check-up before removing your bandages. You will most likely have thin paper bandages that some people find irritating. In some cases, these bandages start to fall off on their own. As much as you may want to remove the bandages yourself, it’s always best to check with your doctor first.
Looking for Signs of Infection
Infection is always a risk when surgery is performed, so look for signs such as redness, swelling and leakage. A little bit of swelling during the healing process is normal, but you should contact your doctor if the incision is leaking fluid or feels warm to the touch. Also contact your doctor if you have a fever that is over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ointments and Sunscreen
The skin at the incision site will be more sensitive to ultraviolet radiation when it is healing, so wear sunscreen over it after your bandages have been removed. Moisturizers will also keep your skin supple and reduce the risk of scarring, but they should only be used after two weeks have passed since your surgery. Stick to gentler products, such as aloe vera and Vitamin E creams, as the skin covering the wound will be new and sensitive.
Contacting Your Doctor
Finally, you should always contact your doctor if you have any concerns about your recovery. No surgery is without its complications, and that includes an operation to remove all or part of your thyroid. Listen to the advice that your doctor has about your recovery, and don’t be afraid to call immediately if you think there’s a problem.