You can use these resources to answer your questions and prepare for your visit to the Massachusetts General Hospital Division of Gastrointestinal & Oncologic Surgery.

Below are what patients should expect when recovering from parathyroid surgery:


Please reference the following guidelines for activity following surgery:

  • Refrain from strenuous exercise for at least one to two weeks from the day of your operation
  • After surgery, you do not need to be on bed rest—light activity is fine
  • Most patients are able to return to a full-time work schedule within one to two weeks
  • Do not drive a car until you are able to comfortably turn your neck

There are no dietary restrictions following parathyroid surgery.

Incision Care

Please reference the following guidelines for incision care following surgery:

  • Steri-strips will be in place on the incision, do not remove these as they will fall off on their own
  • Sutures are buried and will dissolve on their own
  • You may take a shower 48 hours after surgery
  • Mild swelling at the incision site is normal and should improve in four to six weeks following surgery; the pink line will slowly fade to white during the six to 12 months following surgery
  • Use a sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) or keep the scar covered from the sun for the first six months to a year, as the sun can darken your scar—you may start sunscreen four weeks after surgery
  • Four to six weeks after surgery, you can also use a scar ointment on your incision, if you wish
Common Problems

Following surgery, you may experience:

  • A hoarse or weak voice, changes in your pitch or tone and difficulty singing. These symptoms usually fade over six weeks to six months
  • A sore throat and/or a sensation of a lump with swallowing. This is very common after surgery and will improve with time
  • Numbness of the skin under the chin or above the incision is also common

Please resume your pre-surgery medications. 

In general, patients undergoing parathyroid surgery do not require narcotic pain medication. Tylenol, Advil, Motrin and Ibuprofen can be taken starting the evening after surgery.

Calcium and Vitamin D Supplementation

It is common for the calcium level to be low following parathyroid surgery and most patients should start calcium supplementation. The exact dose depends on several factors, including the number of glands removed. As a general guideline, you should take one to two tablets (each are usually 500-600 mg each) of over-the-counter calcium twice daily for a total of 1000-2000 mg per day.

If you begin experiencing symptoms of low calcium, such as numbness or tingling in your fingertips or around your mouth, immediately take two (approximately 1000 mg) over-the-counter calcium supplements and increase the dosing frequency. The symptoms should improve when you take your calcium supplements. If it does not, please call your doctor.

Vitamin D can help the body absorb calcium. If you were on vitamin D pre-operatively, resume it after surgery. If you were not, you may be instructed to start vitamin D when you go home.

Learn more about calcium supplementation


Please call your surgeon if you have:

  • Increased redness or swelling in the area of the incision
  • Trouble swallowing or breathing
  • Foul-smelling drainage from your incision
  • A fever of 101.5 or greater
  • Severe nausea or vomiting that does not go away
  • Any urgent questions or concerns

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