Thyroidectomy: Exactly How Painful Is It?

Kalmovich, Limor Muallem; Cote, Valerie; Sands, Noah; Black, Martin; Payne, Richard; Hier, Michael
June 2010
Journal of Otolaryngology -- Head & Neck Surgery;Jun2010, Vol. 39 Issue 3, p277
Academic Journal
Background: The level of pain post-conventional thyroidectomy has been studied from two aspects: the short-term effect of different perioperative analgesics on the pain level and in comparison with endoscopic thyroidectomy. Objective: The level of pain experienced post-open thyroidectomy and postoperative long-term analgesia requirements have not been prospectively studied. We have undertaken this study to have a clearer understanding of this issue. We also compared the implication of two different surgical approaches toward the sternothyroid muscle: retraction versus incision on the level of postoperative pain. Methods: Prospective screening of 53 patients undergoing total thyroidectomy was conducted. Patients received a form containing information as to analgesic drugs taken postoperatively and a self-estimated pain severity scale. Results: The pain level decreased steadily from the first postoperative evening, and the average pain level at the peak was moderate. Most of the patients chose not to use narcotics. In our study population, males, as a trend, reported higher pain levels compared with females and for a longer duration. Sternothyroid muscle division did not increase pain level, the duration of pain, or the pattern of postoperative analgesic requirements. Conclusions: We recommend that only patients with severe pain, on the first postoperative day, be prescribed mild narcotics in small quantities. All others can be prescribed with a nonnarcotic analgesia. We did not find evidence that sternothyroid muscle splitting causes more pain; hence it should be used at the surgeon's discretion.


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