Background: Postoperative hypocalcemia because of hypoparathyroidism is the most common complication of total thyroidectomy in children. We hypothesized that most children with postoperative hypocalcemia would be eucalcemic by 12 mo and sought to define risk factors for permanent hypoparathyroidism.
Methods: We retrospectively reviewed children who underwent total thyroidectomy at a single children's hospital from 2012 to 2019. Patients with prior neck surgery were excluded. Indication for operation, final pathologic diagnosis, and postoperative serum calcium up to 12 mo were recorded. Permanent hypoparathyroidism was defined as supplemental calcium requirement beyond 1 y postoperatively.
Results: Sixty-eight patients underwent total thyroidectomy. Graves' disease was the most common benign indication for surgery (38 patients). Twenty-six patients (38%) had cancer on final pathology. Central lymph node dissection (CLND) was performed in 12 cancer patients. Twenty-eight patients (41%) had postoperative hypocalcemia. Eight patients (12%) had hypocalcemia at 6 mo. Risk factors for hypoparathyroidism at 6 mo were a cancer diagnosis (odds ratio [OR] 6.7; P = 0.02), CLND (OR 12.6; P < 0.01), and parathyroid tissue in the surgical specimen on pathologic analysis (OR 19.5; P < 0.01). Only two patients (3%) developed permanent hypoparathyroidism, both of whom had thyroidectomy for cancer and underwent CLND.
Conclusions: Children with thyroid cancer are at high risk for postoperative hypocalcemia after total thyroidectomy. The risk is further increased by CLND, which should be performed selectively. A majority of patients with hypoparathyroidism at 6 mo postoperatively regain normal parathyroid function by 1 y. Permanent hypoparathyroidism in children after total thyroidectomy at a pediatric endocrine surgery center is rare.
Keywords: Central neck lymph node dissection; Hypocalcemia; Hypoparathyroidism; Thyroidectomy.
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