Postoperative hypocalcemia is common after total thyroidectomy, and perioperative monitoring of serum calcium levels is arguably the primary reason for overnight hospitalization. Confidently predicting which patients will not develop significant hypocalcemia may allow for a safe earlier discharge.
To examine associations of patient characteristics with hypocalcemia, duration of hospitalization, and postoperative intact parathyroid hormone (IPTH) level after total thyroidectomy.
DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS
Retrospective study of consecutive patients who underwent total thyroidectomy by a single high-volume surgeon between February 1, 2010, and November 30, 2012. Postoperative serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (vitamin D), calcium, and IPTH levels were tested within 6 to 8 hours after surgery. Mild hypocalcemia was defined as any postoperative serum calcium level of less than 8.4 to 8.0 mg/dL. Significant hypocalcemia was defined as any postoperative serum calcium level of less than 8.0 mg/dL or the development of hypocalcemia-related symptoms.
MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES
Associations of patient demographic and clinical characteristics and laboratory values with postoperative mild and significant hypocalcemia were examined using univariate analysis, and independent predictors of hypocalcemia, duration of hospitalization, and IPTH level were determined using multivariate analysis.
Overall, 304 total thyroidectomies were performed. Mild and significant hypocalcemia occurred in 68 (22.4%) and 91 (29.9%) patients, respectively, of which the majority were female (P = .003). The development of significant hypocalcemia was associated with postoperative IPTH level (P < .001). On multivariate analysis, males had a decreased risk of developing mild (odds ratio, 0.37 [95% CI, 0.16–0.85]) and significant (odds ratio, 0.57 [95% CI, 0.09–0.78]) hypocalcemia. Every 10-pg/mL increase in postoperative IPTH level predicted a 43% decreased risk of significant hypocalcemia (P < .001) and an 18% decreased risk of hospitalization beyond 24 hours (P = .03). Presence of malignant neoplasm carried a 27% risk of mild hypocalcemia (P = .02). There was a progressively increasing risk of lower IPTH levels for each parathyroid gland inadvertently resected or autotransplanted. Male sex and African American race were independently predictive of higher IPTH levels.
CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE
Low postoperative IPTH level, female sex, and presence of malignant neoplasm are all significant, independent predictors of hypocalcemia after total thyroidectomy. Clinicians should consider these variables when deciding how to best manage or prevent postoperative hypocalcemia.