Background: Parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels are often measured after thyroid surgery and are used to detect patients at risk for postoperative hypoparathyroidism. However, there is a lack of consensus in the literature about how to define the recovery of parathyroid gland function and when to classify hypoparathyroidism as permanent. The goals of this study were to determine the incidence of low postoperative PTH in total thyroidectomy patients and to monitor their time course to recovery of parathyroid gland function.
Methods: We identified 1054 consecutive patients who underwent a total or completion thyroidectomy from January, 2006-December, 2013. Low PTH was defined as a PTH measurement <10 pg/mL immediately after surgery. Patients were considered to be permanently hypoparathyroid if they had not recovered within 1 y. Recovery of parathyroid gland function was defined as PTH ≥10 pg/mL and no need for therapeutic calcium or activated vitamin D (calcitriol) supplementation to prevent hypocalcemic symptoms.
Results: Of 1054 total thyroidectomy patients, 189 (18%) had a postoperative PTH <10 pg/mL. Of those 189 patients, 132 (70%) showed resolution within 2 mo of surgery. Notably, 9 (5%) resolved between 6 and 12 mo. At 1 y, 20 (1.9%) were considered to have permanent hypoparathyroidism. Surprisingly, 50% of those patients had recovery of PTH levels yet still required supplementation to avoid symptoms.
Conclusions: Most patients with a low postoperative PTH recover function quickly, but it can take up to 1 y for full resolution. Hypoparathyroidism needs to be defined not only by PTH levels but also by medication requirements.
Keywords: Hypocalcemia; Hypoparathyroidism; Parathyroid hormone; Total thyroidectomy.
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