Q&A – Post Thyroidectomy Breathing

I get many emails from people with questions about living a life without a thyroid (such as post thyroidectomy breathing concerns), or what the thyroidectomy process is like. I figured it might be helpful if I made the questions and answers public (redacting the person’s information, of course) so others may find answers to their questions. Please click here if you would like to send me an email or share your positive post thyroidectomy story!

“Hi there ! I found your blog while trying to find something positive to read about having a total thyroidectomy. I am in Ottawa, Canada, and was diagnosed with papillary thydroid cancer. My surgery will be on January 2…You mentioned that it was difficult to breathe when you woke up from surgery – this has me quite worried. How long did the sensation last?”

My response:
It is a little difficult to breathe when you first wake up because you have a breathing tube inserted, so when you wake up it’s a VERY strange sensation! Also, you may have the ‘where am I, what is going on’ sensation. The nurse will immediately come over and take it out the breathing tube. In some hospitals, it might already be out and someone is actively waking you up. It’s important to stay calm (I started to panic which made it worse, as I was not expecting this). So if you are worried that panicking when you wake up is a concern, start fortifying your brain into knowing you should NOT PANIC when waking up after the surgery.
I had shortness of breathe during the evening of the surgery. The nurses made me blow into a little device (called a TriBall – it has three balls in it) to strengthen my breathing. When you blow hard enough, the little balls rise up. I hated it and was tired, but I did as told. Your throat will be sore and your neck will be swollen, but otherwise you should not have any issues breathing.


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2 Responses to Q&A – Post Thyroidectomy Breathing

  1. JNicheols

    I had a total thyroidectomy in mid October of this year, 2013 after being diagnosed with a 2cm x 1.5cm well-differentiated papillary cancer tumor. The surgery is tough. For someone to tell you otherwise is lying to you. It isn’t heart surgery, or hip surgery, however they prop you up, stretch your head back and then dive in.
    My biggest problems after surgery were guarding, drawing of the shoulders to protect the neck and its ability to move. The amount of tension in the neck is tremendous, making the head and body move and turn in unison. As you relax the tension eases. The soreness in my throat along with the awkwardness of the lungs was second for me. I assume this is due to the tube and breathing machine when I was under. I have not researched how much control one has while hooked up in such a case. However, it did take a couple of weeks before I felt like I had complete voluntary control of my lungs when I wanted to pay attention to my breathing. Neck discomfort was a problem. If you have had neck issues, tell the surgeon prior to surgery, this could alter how rough they may be with you during surgery. Lastly, the biggest strides towards recovery came when I went off all pain medicine. The fog and tiredness lifted. I would still nap , but it was a different kind of rest.
    The better prepared you are spiritually, mentally, and physically prior to surgery the easier it will be and the quicker you may recover. Overall, my experience was fine, I had no complications and by the fourth day after surgery I was walking a mile or more daily and enjoying the down time. Since the surgery I feel better than I did prior to it. That may change, but I pray that it does not. I hope this helps.

    • Great point in that any prior neck issues should be mentioned to the doctors.
      Did they make you use the TriBall after surgery? Apparently the breathing tube used during thyroidectomies is thicker than a normal breathing tube, hence the ridiculous sore throat.
      It took several months before the fog lifted for me. Glad to hear you are already feeling clear/great, so soon after the surgery!!

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