Head and Neck Surgery

Before You Go To Sleep

If you haven’t already met your anaesthetist you will meet them either on the ward or in the anaesthetic bay on the day of your surgery. At this stage if you have any concerns or worries about your operation or anaesthetic please let them know.

Once in the anaesthetic bay you will have an intravenous drip placed and often you will be given a sedative “relaxing medication” just before going into the operating theatre. You often will not remember much after being given the sedative. Once inside the operating theatre you will have several monitors placed (these monitor things like your blood pressure, heart rate and breathing patterns). Once these are placed you will be given an oxygen mask and then receive another injection through the drip. This injection will put you “to sleep”.The next thing you will remember is waking up either in the recovery room or in the operating theatre.

The Operation

During the operation your anaesthetist will remain with you monitoring your operation, anaesthetic and all your vital physiological functions. They stay with you until you reach the recovery room where your care will continued by the recovery staff. While you are in recovery if you have any discomfort or feel nauseous or sick it is important that you let the recovery staff know. They can administer pain killers or anti nausea drugs if they are required. The aim is to have you comfortable when you leave recovery for the ward.

Your Stay in Hospital

Neck surgery can be highly variable. It can range from minor surgery all the way through to major surgery, for which you may spend up to a week in hospital. Regardless the extent of the surgery we can usually use a combination of direct local anaesthesia and nerve blocks to have you quite comfortable when you wake up. Once we get you comfortable in recovery most patients generally have a good night in terms of pain. You will be given paracetamol regularly during your hospital stay and frequently this is all that will be required for pain relief. However if you have significant discomfort please let the nursing staff know as you will be written up for pain relief if it is needed. It is not uncommon to be quite numb in the neck, which partly be due to the local anaesthesia as well as from the surgery itself.

Often people describe the worst of their pain being a sore throat similar to when you have a bad cold. This is partly due to the endotrachael tube (breathing tube) that you need for the operation and partly because whilst operating on your neck we may need to move the tube which can cause some mild inflammation. Again if you have any discomfort please let the staff know.

It is not unusual to have some mild nausea and dizziness during the first night. if it is particularly worrying for you please let the staff know as they can give you some medication and fluids to ease this.

During the first night you will generally be allowed to have some clear fluids to drink but not food. The next morning depending on the extent of your surgery you may be started on a light breakfast and then your diet will progress depending on how you feel. Once you have eaten your breakfast, if you feel well in many cases the intravenous drip will be removed.

The duration of your stay in hospital will generally be determined by the extent of your surgery and the need for wound drains.

Going Home

Whether or not you have had minor or major surgery you need someone to pick you up from the hospital and take you home. We generally recommend our patients take regular Panadol (2 tablets four times a day) for 2-3 days after their surgery. If the Panadol is taken regularly we often find our patients do not require any other pain relief. You will be given a prescription for some stronger pain killers just in case you need them.

Most of the patients we talk to over the next few days often report feeling “great” the day they go home and then say they don’t have such a great day the second day. Many people report feeling a bit tired or lethargic or just feeling “a bit off”. There is no exact reason to why this occurs; it is probably a combination of inflammation, general tiredness and the fact that some of the anti inflammatory drugs give around the time of surgery have worn off. Either way it generally lasts for a day and we have never had to re admit a patient to hospital.