Head & Neck Surgery

Dr Paul Goonan - Anaesthesia for Head & Neck Surgery

Head and neck surgery covers a wide spectrum of surgical interventions ranging from a short day of surgery case where the patient goes home the same day to very long and complex operations where patients may be hospitalised for a number of weeks.

Anaesthetic implications relating to this region of the body can be considered in the following:

Sore Throat

Operations particularly around the throat can result in inflammation in the tissues around the site of the surgery. As a result, movement involving the muscles and skin in this area may be painful, worse straight after the operation and gradually improving over the following days.

General Fatigue

The majority of people are exhausted and may take many days to get back to normal following surgery.  As every person is different, so is the recovery. Using a total thyroidectomy as the example, most people would stay in hospital for either one or two nights. It often takes 5-7 days to recover from the effects of the surgery and anaesthetic. There are a multitude of reasons for this fatigue, and Dr Goonan can discuss this with when you have your pre-operative consultation.

Altered Voice

A common question following throat operations is "will I be able to talk?" Following the vast majority of surgery, you will be able to talk, however, it is not unusual for your voice to be a little different when you first wake up - some patients describe it as husky or croaky. This usually settles over the first 12-24 hours after the surgery.

For operations that involve surgery around the laryngeal nerves (such as thyroid and parathyroid surgery), it is not uncommon to experience a degree of voice fatigue. This is where you may have a weakness or loss of voice that occurs by the end of the day or after prolonged periods of talking. Many people find their voice may take a few weeks to return completely back to normal. From a career and occupation point of view, voice fatigue will affect some patients more than others. Your surgeon should be able to give you an indication of the risk to your voice given the anticipated surgery.  Dr Goonan can also give you additional information about this from an anaesthetic viewpoint.

For patients with more complex pathologies that are known to involve the laryngeal nerves, you may need to be referred to a speech pathologist, post operatively, to aid in the rehabilitation of your voice by demonstrating individualised voice exercises that can be utilized during your recovery.


Each person is unique and each operation is different, however, as a general rule, post-operatively for most head and neck surgery, you will not be permitted to have anything to drink for the first two or three hours after you wake up from the anaesthetic. This permits observation of the surgical site in that initial period so if there are any rare complications necessitating return to theatre, you will still be in a fasted condition so that surgery doesn't have to delayed

Dr Goonan will discuss all aspects of your anaesthetic during your pre-operative consultation. However, if you have any concerns or questions before this time, please contact our office and we will be happy to answer your query.

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