Typically the patient returns to the office about 2 weeks after surgery for a check up. At that time we will go over the pathology results from the surgery and assess the patients recovery and over all health. If the patient had a total thyroidectomy he or she will go by the outpatient department at the hospital where the surgery was performed and have a calcium level drawn before coming to the post-op appointment. If the calcium level is okay we will make adjustments to the calcium supplement. Usually we will need to check the calcium level a couple of more times to be sure the parathyroid glands are working well. This can be done at the hospital or, if it is more convenient, at a local Labcorp facility. We will stay in touch by phone regarding these issues.
At the post-op visit the wound will be evaluated and the skin glue removed. If there is evidence of fluid accumulation under the skin (seroma) we may aspirate this. It is essentially painless and helps the swelling resolve quicker. We will discuss wound and scar care at this time as well.
If everything looks good, this will be the patient’s only post-op visit. We will arrange for the patient to see their referral physician in about 2-4 weeks. Obviously, if any issues are unresolved or arise after the office visit, we see the patient in the office as needed.
If surgery was done for thyroid cancer we will refer the patient back to the patient’s endocrinologist for follow-up and consideration of RAI and total body thyroid scanning. If the patient doesn’t have an endocrinologist we will arrange a consultation. Generally, thyroid cancer patients are treated and followed by an endocrinologist rather than an oncologist.
After total thyroidectomy the patient will need to have their thyroid hormone level checked to make sure that they are on the correct dose of thyroid replacement medication. This is done 3-4 weeks after surgery. Adjustment of your medication will be done by the endocrinologist or primary physician. If a thyroid lobectomy is done, we still have the patient see their primary physician within a month of surgery to be certain the remaining lobe is functioning normally.