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Is a parathyroid surgery out-patient? What is the recovery time? What are the risks?

Deva Boone
Answer authored by Deva Boone
Deva Boone, MD is the founder of the Southwest Parathyroid Center. As one of the most experienced parathyroid surgeons in the U.S., she has treated thousands of patients with parathyroid conditions.

Thanks for asking!

Parathyroid surgery is nearly always outpatient, and you go home the same day as the operation. There are some rare exceptions, so occasionally someone will need to spend the night in the hospital. For example, patients who are on dialysis for kidney failure or patients with very severe heart or lung disease that might need to be monitored for a little longer after surgery. These are the exceptions, though. Most patients, even those in their 80s with multiple medical conditions, will go home within a few hours after the operation.

Recovery time varies. Everyone is different, so I can never tell someone exactly how their recovery is going to go. But I can tell you about the “average” patient. The average patient is going to want to take it easy the day of surgery, then go back to light activities in the following days. Most people can return to work in a few days, though if you can take off a week, I recommend doing that. You might feel like going back to work after a few days, which is fine, but it can be nice to have the extra time just in case you need it. Within the first week or two, most people are noticing improvements in the symptoms of parathyroid disease. They feel less tired, have more energy, and sleep better at night. Some symptoms get better immediately after surgery, such as bone pain, but others can take months to improve. Everyone is a little different. On average, though, most people will notice improvements within the first couple of weeks.

Parathyroid surgery is a very safe procedure, with rare complications. The rate of complications is related to the experience of the surgeon, which is one reason why you want to find the most experienced surgeon you can. The two primary risks are fortunately very rare and with an experienced surgeon will occur in well under 1% of patients. These two risks are: 1. Bleeding - this can occur after any operation. It may require a return to the operating room to fix. 2. Voice changes due to recurrent laryngeal nerve injury - this is a risk in any neck operation. Fortunately, it is almost always temporary, and the voice returns to normal. Remember that any surgeon can have a complication, but experienced surgeons will have far fewer complications than inexperienced surgeons. In experienced hands, parathyroid surgery is a very safe and effective operation.

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