Total Thyroidectomy Postoperative Care Instructions

The thyroid gland produces a hormone that is important for metabolism and growth.  Thyroidectomy is performed to treat thyroid cancer, noncancerous enlargement of the thyroid (goiter) and overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism). It might also be recommended for suspicious thyroid nodules that cannot be determined as cancerous or noncancerous after a needle biopsy.   

The Head and Neck Oncology team at the Mount Sinai Heath System has compiled the below postoperative care instructions for those undergoing a thyroidectomy. These are general instructions, and may be subject to change based on your medical history and condition.

After Thyroidectomy Surgery Care

Wound care: Your wound is covered with Steri Strips. Steri Strips are thin adhesive strips which are placed over an incision to help it heal. Keep the Steri Strips dry for the first 24 hours; then you may gently cleanse the area daily with mild soap and water. You should avoid scrubbing or scratching the incision site. Leave them in place until they fall off on their own or your provider tells you to remove them. They will usually fall of the skin within 10 to 14 days. Try to keep them dry as much as possible to prevent infection.

Activity: You may resume most of your daily activities, although you should refrain from heavy lifting (greater than 10 lbs) or strenuous activity. You can discuss when you may fully resume your daily exercise/fitness routines at your postoperative follow up appointment.

Diet: You may resume a regular diet, although at first many patients prefer a clear liquid diet like apple juice, Jell-O, or broth. Feel free to advance back to your regular diet as tolerated. Post-surgery, there are no dietary restrictions.

What to expect: You may have a sore throat or a hoarse voice after surgery.  You should drink plenty of fluids, and it may be helpful to take throat lozenges to relieve your symptoms. Symptoms may persist for a few days after surgery but will improve over time.

Shower/bathing: Unless indicated by your surgeon, you should be able to shower or bathe as usual.

Thyroid hormone supplementation: You may be given a prescription for thyroid hormone supplementation (ex. Synthroid, levothyroxine, cytomel, etc.). This medication should be taken on an empty stomach (1 hour before your meal or 2 hours after your meal). Do not take this medication at the same time as an anti-acid or calcium supplementation. Please take your anti-acid or calcium supplementation 1 hour before or 2 hours after your thyroid hormone supplementation.

Calcium supplementation with Vitamin D:  You may be given a prescription to keep your calcium levels in your body adequately supported (calcium carbonate with Calcitriol, calcium citrate with Calcitriol, Caltrate+D, etc.). Please take the medication as prescribed by your surgeon. 

The thyroid hormone and your calcium supplementation medication may be adjusted during your postoperative visit depending on your postoperative laboratory evaluations.

Pain: For at least 10 days after surgery you should refrain from taking any ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), Aleve, aspirin, etc., because these medications may cause bleeding. For pain, you should take Tylenol or the pain medication provided by your surgical team (unless otherwise directed by your surgeon).

Do not drive, operate dangerous machinery, or do anything dangerous if you are taking narcotic pain medication (such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, etc.) This medication affects your reflexes and responses, just like alcohol.

Education: For more information on thyroid disorder/disease you may want to visit the American Thyroid Association Website at This website is designed to be an educational resource tool and to provide up-to-date information for patients and their families.

Call Your Head and Neck Surgeon If You Have…

  1. Any concerns. We would much rather that you call your surgeon then worry at home, or get into trouble.
  2. Symptoms of low calcium:
    1. Numbness/ Tingling of your hands and/or feet
    2. Numbness around your lips
    3. Muscle cramps in the back and legs, may lead to spasms
    4. Fatigue, Irritability
    5. Wheezing
    6. Trouble swallowing
    7. In severe cases, you may experience seizures or other uncontrolled movements.
  3. Fever over 101.5 degrees F.
  4. Foul smelling discharge from your incision.
  5. More than expected swelling of your neck.
  6. Increase warmth or redness around the incision.
  7. Pain that continues to increase instead of decrease.
  8. Problem urinating.

If you are experiencing bleeding or are having difficulties breathing, you need to go directly to the emergency room without calling.

How to Contact Your Surgeon

For non-urgent inquiries, please call the Head and Neck Oncology offices during business hours, 9am to 5pm, Monday-Friday. If you need to speak with someone after 5pm or on a weekend, call the office, and the answering service will contact the doctor on-call to call you back.


Office Number

Raymond Chai, MD

(212) 844-8775

Eric Genden, MD

(212) 241-9410

Nazir Khan, MD

(212) 844-8775

Diana Kirke, MD


Brett Miles, MD

(212) 241-9410

Edward Shin, MD

(212) 979-4200

Catherine Sinclair, MD

(212) 262-4444

Marita Teng, MD

(212) 241-9410

Mark Urken, MD

(212) 844-8775

Please note, pathology results are generally not available until 7-10 business days after your procedure. Results will be discussed in the office during your post-op visit.