What to Expect During Your Hospital Stay

This information is intended to help you understand your hospital stay so you have realistic expectations for the first few days after surgery.  Following the guidelines on this sheet will help you recover from your surgery as quickly as possible and reduce the risk of some complications.

What to expect on a day to day basis:

Day 0:  the afternoon and evening of surgery:

  • Once you wake up you should start your breathing and leg exercises.  You will be encouraged to sit in a chair and walk in the hallway.
  • You will be allowed to have a full diet once you are fully awake from the anesthesia and without nausea. 
  • You will be allowed to talk and move your next as usual.
  • You will be started on oral pain pills including liquid Tylenol® or liquid Tylenol®/narcotic combination. No NSAIDs will be given. Chloraseptic® spray and lozenges will be given for your sore throat.
  • If you only had half of your thyroid removed (lobectomy) then you may be allowed to go home today, depending on your other medical problems.
  • If you have had your whole thyroid removed you will be started on calcium supplements and possibly vitamin D.

Day 1:  the first post-op day:

  • If you are still in the hospital you will very likely go home today.
  • You may shower once you get home.
  • You may resume your normal activities as you feel able.

Specific points:

Breathing exercises:
These are extremely important. You should do these every hour during waking hours, taking at least ten deep breaths. This expands the small air sacs in the lungs and minimizes postoperative fever and pneumonia. You should continue these exercises for a few days once you return to your home.

New medications:
This is for people that have had their whole thyroid removed. You will be given a prescription for thyroid hormone replacement which you should start taking within one to three days. You will also be discharged on calcium supplementation and possibly vitamin D – continue taking these medications as directed. Further instructions will be given to you at the time of discharge.

Going home:
When you go home, expect to be able to drink and eat freely. Your main complaint will be a sore throat that will last for three to four days; throat lozenges, Chloraseptic® spray, and ice cream/frozen yogurt (yes, your doctor is prescribing ice cream) provide the best relief. You will be on oral pain medications for any residual pain or discomfort.  You may experience some swelling around the incision – this is normal. Cold compresses sometimes provide relief. If you live alone, you may wish to make arrangements with family or friends in advance to stay with them for a day.  If you live a long distance away from Providence Saint John’s Health Center, you may wish to make arrangements with a local hotel to stay nearby for a day (which we can help you with) before going home if you have outpatient surgery.  Upon discharge please call your physician’s office to make a follow-up appointment in about two weeks.