What Are Side Effects of Thyroidectomy and Complications?

Thyroidectomy or surgical removal of the whole or part of the thyroid gland is a method of treatment for thyroid disorders like goiter and cancer. The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ located in the lower part of the neck. It produces a number of hormones which are responsible for regulating various aspects of metabolism including calorie burning and heart rate. But, can side effects or other complications occur after this thyroidectomy surgery?

What Are the Thyroidectomy Side Effects?

Some people experience short-term side effects after thyroidectomy, including the following:

What Are the Possible Complications of Thyroidectomy?

In addition to thyroidectomy side effects, some complications are associated to the surgery.


Because parathyroid glands neighbor the thyroid gland, injury to these glands occurs in nearly 24% of thyroidectomies. And because parathyroid glands are responsible for regulation of calcium in the body, their damage may lead to low calcium in blood (hypocalcemia). And while this problem is usually temporary, recent studies indicate that about 1% of the patients who undergo thyroidectomy get permanent hypoparathyroidism that requires sustained treatment.

Damage to the Laryngeal Nerve

Damage of the laryngeal nerves is also likely during thyroid surgery due to their close proximity to the thyroid gland. Such damage may lead to some level of paralysis within the vocal cords and possibly, hoarseness. Recurrent laryngeal nerve damage can cause paralysis of the vocal cords. This can further make airflow into the lungs difficult and require immediate treatment including the insertion of an air tube through the throat in order for the patient to breathe.

Additional Complications

As in many surgeries, bleeding is among the possible thyroidectomy side effects or complications. If the bleeding is goes on for long, blood may accumulate in the area and cause the constriction of the airway.

Infection may also occur in the site, and scarring, including the formation of a keloid. Additionally, a fistula may form across the surgical wound and the lymphatic system which may lead to drainage of a milk-white fluid and possible dehydration which may lead to weakening of the immune system, bleeding and infection.

Risk Factors of Complications

There are many risk factors of complications following thyroidectomy. Removal of the whole thyroid is associated with higher risk in comparison with partial removal. Complications are also higher when the surgery is carried out by newly qualified surgeons. Some studies have also indicated that male patients and the elderly are more likely to get post surgery complications.

Recovery After Thyroidectomy

Incision Care 



In case you experience pain when swallowing, begin with cold beverages such as ice cream and ice pops. You can then move on to yogurt and other soft foods such as pudding, scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes and cooked fruit. Avoid scratchy or hard foods like raw veggies and chips, and acidic fruits and juices like orange and tomato.


In case you were on medication prior to surgery, consult your doctor about when to resume taking the medicines. The doctor will also give any necessary additional instructions to ensure that you get minimal thyroidectomy side effects.


Remember that follow-up is key to speedy recovery. Attend all follow-up appointments, and in case of any problem, contact the doctor or care provider immediately. You also need to take interest in your test results so you know how you are doing. And be aware of the medications that you are taking.

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