Neck Dissection – General Surgery
A neck dissection is the removal of lymph nodes and nearby tissue from the neck.
The wound is 2-4 inches long. During the 1-3 hour surgery, you will be under general anesthesia.
You will go home the same day or stay one night in the hospital.
How will I feel after Surgery?
Your throat may be sore when you swallow. This is normal. This can last 1-2 days. For the first
24 hours, it is best to keep your head raised at least 30 degrees. Do not lie flat in bed. During the
day the more upright you are the less swelling you will have.
If you have a drain, we will teach you how to care for it at home.
You may have decreased feeling in the jaw or neck. Your voice may be hoarse or you may feel
that your voice gets tired. Sometimes patients feel a pulling in the neck muscles. You may feel
like you have a lump in your throat when you swallow. This will get better but can last up to 6-8
weeks after surgery.
The back of your neck may be sore from the position of your head during surgery. It may feel
better to use 1-2 pillows in bed. Using a heating pad on the back of your neck might also help.
The parathyroid glands are four small glands near the thyroid. They control blood calcium. These
four glands may not work right away after surgery. Your blood calcium may be low. If you have
numbness and tingling in your face, lips, fingertips, or toes, chew 4- Tums® 500 mg each (2000
mg of calcium carbonate). The numbness and tingling should go away in 30 minutes. If
numbness and tingling do not go away after 30 minutes, chew more Tums® 2000 mg. If the
symptoms do not go away 30 minutes after the second dose of Tums®, please call us and take a
third dose of Tums 2000 mg.
Calcium and narcotic pain pills can be constipating. To prevent this problem you may want to
take a stool softener each day that you use narcotic pain pills and until you have your first bowel
movement after your surgery. You may want to start with Peri-Colace®. Take Peri-Colace®
(docusate sodium 50 mg; sennosides 8.6 mg) two tablets, one to two times a day as needed for
constipation. Follow the package directions.
How do I care for my wound?
Your wound is closed with glue. If you have Steri-strips (pieces of tape) covering the incision,
leave the tape on until your next doctor visit. Curled tape edges may be trimmed with small
scissors. Keep the wound clean and dry. The glue is waterproof. It is OK to shower.
Look at your wound daily, check for signs of an infection.
ξ Spreading redness or swelling.
ξ Foul-smelling drainage or pus.
ξ A fever (more than 101 θ F by mouth).
What about pain?
Expect that your wound will be tender. You will have prescription pain pills to use at home. You
may take Tylenol® instead of the prescription pain pills. You can also use an ice pack to the
incision area which can help reduce both pain and swelling. You can start taking ibuprofen 24
hours after surgery.
When can I eat?
You can eat your normal diet when you get home. If your throat is still sore, try cold, soft foods.
When can I take a bath?
You can shower anytime. No swimming or soaking in water for 14 days.
When can I drive?
You can drive when you are not taking prescription pain medicine and when you can easily turn
your head from side to side.
When can I exercise?
Light exercise is fine. Avoid strenuous exercise for the first week after surgery. Avoid straining
or extreme bending of your neck. Do not lift more than 20 pounds the first week.
When can I return to work?
You can return to work whenever you feel up to it. Most people return to work in one week. If
your job requires regular heavy lifting, you may require 2 weeks off. Please discuss this with
When should I get help?
ξ This is rare, but if you have trouble breathing, a sudden swelling in your throat, or cannot
swallow, Call 911.
ξ Swelling of your neck that is getting worse.
ξ Numbness or tingling in your fingertips, face, lips, or toes that does not go away after two
extra doses of Tums .
ξ Pain that does not get better with prescription pain pills.
ξ Signs of infection like spreading redness or swelling, foul-smelling drainage or pus.
ξ Temperature greater than 101 θF.
ξ Any other symptoms that concern you.
How do I contact the doctor if I do not have an emergency?
ξ If your surgery was at UW Hospital and Clinics call (608) 263-7502. This is a 24 hour
ξ If your surgery was at The American Center call (608) 440-6300. This is a 24 hour
ξ Call UW Health Toll free at: 1-800-323-8942. Ask the operator to transfer you to the
facility where you had your surgery.
ξ If your surgery was at Meriter or Madison Surgery Center call (608) 287-2100. This is a
24 hour number.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 9/2016 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#7476