Problem with partial thyroidectomy

My 87 yr old mother in law had partial thyroidectomy 4 weeks ago for suspected cancer, she is still in hospital as she has lost her swallow and can only eat pureed food, & even then she sometimes chokes. She had NG tube fitted but went wrong and now refusing any sort of feed tube. She is also struggling with breathing and has to go on a nebulizer a couple of times a day. Has anyone else had this?

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  • Sadly if she has an incompetent swallow and has refused a nasogastric tube she is probably feeding at risk. This means there is a risk of stomach contents going into the lungs, this causes an aspiration pneumonia. Gastric contents are quite acidic due to the acid in the stomach and this causes damage to the delicate lung tissue resulting in swollen and inflamed airways which impedes breathing. The treatment is conservative, antibiotics to help prevent secondary infection and nebulisers to help with the breathing. If there is no improvement in the swallow reflex this becomes a recurrent problem which has a poor prognosis. I am so sorry your mother in law has gone through this. Do the surgeons think this is transitory nerve damage or something long term? If it is long term would your mother in law consent to PEG ( per cutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy) feed, a tube directly into the stomach through the stomach wall? If not have the medics actually discussed what the options are with your mother in law in order so she can make some informed decisions as to her future.

  • Thanks for your reply, we are not sure if this is a permanent problem as Consultant says she does not know, but it's now been 4 weeks and no better. The Consultant mentioned PEG but is insisting she is not having it, she has already had pneumonia twice in the last 12 months, so I guess it's not looking good

  • What I sad story :( When I was having my thyroid removed for the same reason I was in a ward with several other patients and one was an older woman with a similar situation, who had been there several weeks. She desperately wanted to go home, and was watching a fresh crop of new thyroidectomy patients come in each week and then leave the next morning.

    This makes me suspect it's a not uncommon complication. Also makes me angry as the surgery seems so unnecessary.

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