Complications after total thyroidectomy

J Visc Surg. 2013 Sep;150(4):249-56. doi: 10.1016/j.jviscsurg.2013.04.003. Epub 2013 Jun 6.


The two most common early complications of thyroid surgery are hypocalcemia (20-30%) and recurrent laryngeal nerve injury (5-11%). Bilateral recurrent nerve paralysis resulting in adduction of the vocal cords is a rare life-threatening complication (occurring in less than 0.1% of cases that requires emergency management. Prevention of complications depends on careful operative technique and is enhanced for some teams by the use of specific techniques such as intraoperative neuromonitoring. Postsurgical hypocalcemia is managed by the administration of calcium plus vitamin D for at least 10 days. Recurrent laryngeal nerve paralysis recovers in most cases, and no invasive therapy should be performed for at least six months, except for emergency presentations; laryngeal surgery techniques may offer significant improvement if phonation or respiratory sequelae persist beyond six months, but the results are inconsistent. There should be a systematic strategy for detection of complications after thyroidectomy involving a multidisciplinary approach.

Keywords: Ambulatory surgery; Parathyroid; Postoperative morbidity; Recurrent laryngeal nerve; Thyroidectomy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Hypocalcemia / epidemiology
  • Morbidity / trends
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology*
  • Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve Injuries / epidemiology
  • Thyroid Diseases / surgery*
  • Thyroidectomy / adverse effects*