Thyroid UK

Total thyroidectomy complications

My mother had a total thyroidectomy 3 days back for MNG. Now she has a weak voice, she gets very breathles on walking a few steps,she also cant drink water but cant eat food fine. The operating surgeon said to give it 2 months. He was pretty confident that the nerves were identified but excessive manipulation has been done coz the goiter was big with retrosternal extension.i want to ask any body experienced such a problem and what was the outcome.i am so depressed coz i forced my mother to have the surgery.i cant see my mother in this state :(

6 Replies

I had a friend who had a partial thyroidectomy and he lost his voice, he could only whisper and couldn't speak properly for quite a while.

He got speech therapy quite early on though, he was very diligent about doing all the exercises he was given and after a few months his voice got back to normal.

So push for speech therapy for your mum if you can. Sorry I can't help you with the rest but I'm sure someone else will.


Farook, please don't worry, you did the right thing for your mother. It's far too early for your mother to have recovered from the operation and it can take a couple of weeks just to rid her body of the general anaesthetic.

It's very common to have a weak voice post op and it usually recovers within a few weeks, probably much sooner than the 2 months your surgeon mentioned.

Why is your mother unable to drink water but can swallow food? Is she able to swallow other fluids? Drinking fluids will help expel the general anaesthetic from her system. Her breathlessness will improve as she recovers but she needs plenty of rest in the next 3/4 weeks to enable that recovery.

Has she been prescribed Levothyroxine?

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I am age 68 and had a TT in February for same reasons. I had the same as your Mum plus other issues. It takes time for the voice to return and for everything to settle. Yes it was almost exactly 10 weeks for my voice to come back, the inflammation needs to go down so don't worry. The cold water would affect the vocal chords so only have warm drinks. Make sure she does the neck exercises particularly tipping the head/neck backwards as this stretches the vocal area. An interesting thing I found was increasing amount of butter I ate lubricated the vocal area. The voice will come & go until it returns in full.

Yes it takes ages to recover, so just make sure she takes it slowly, and has regular blood tests. Also make sure she takes her thyroxin well away from other meds, at least 4 hours between, and food an hour after taking it.

As we get older it takes longer to recover, I'm only just starting to feel better myself so be patient. It's frightening for both of you. Whilst I was in hospital, a lady came in after me and I say what might have happened 5 years down the road. I was so glad I had the op, so rest assured you did the right thing as you have avoided more serious complications later.

Good luck

Valerie x


Yes I agree with all the above - it's very very early days!

My voice whispery for a few weeks; breathless and exhausted lasted much longer.

Tell yr mum to put her feet up and let everyone else look after her! X


I had a semi thyroidectomy, and was very worried by my weak voice. Lasted a while, I remember meeting a friend for coffee a couple of weeks after, and just wanting to go home as it was so hard to talk. I didn't know it was normal, which added to my worry. However, it went back to normal after a few weeks.


Thank you every body for the reply. Really appreciate it!

It has been 1 month now since she got operated. she had her vocal cords examined by an ENT specialist who told us that unfortunately she has bilateral vocal cords paralysis although there is little bit of movement in her left vocal cord.

Drinking water makes her cough coz vocal cords cant close together during swallowing so she aspirate them into lungs. Voice is still the same. breathy and whispery. she gets strider on walking coz of inadequate airway. i refused a tracheotomy although some doctors insisted she should have it.

she is taking thyroxine 150 microgram daily plus calcium and vit B12.

i take her for walk in the afternoon. she is improving her time. now she can walk 30 mins without getting stridor. which is a big improvement. i am also in touch with a speech therapist. will soon start speech therapy.

Doctor have said we must wait 6 months to 1 years before we can come to a conclusion of permanent nerve injury or before doing any permanent procedure. although there is still a good chance that she will recover. some how i am not satisfied with them n i dont trust them any more. can any body recommend a specialist centre in UK. i live in pakistan and i want her to get the best treatment.




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