Postoperative tetany in patients with Graves' disease: a risk factor analysis

Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 1997 Jul;47(1):71-7. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2265.1997.2201033.x.


Objective: There is little information regarding the clinical risk factors for postoperative tetany in patients with Graves' disease. We analysed the risk factors responsible for postoperative tetany by univariate and multivariate analysis in thyroidectomized patients with Graves' disease, and we discuss the mechanisms of hypocalcaemia and tetany after surgery.

Patients: The subjects were 1742 consecutive patients with Graves' disease who underwent subtotal thyroidectomy between 1992 and 1994.

Results: Univariate analysis of 15 possible risk factors demonstrated that 10 were significant: sex, required operation time, blood loss, preoperative serum calcium level, estimated weight of thyroid remnant, size of goitre, amount of excised thyroid tissue, serum alkaline phosphatase concentration, age at operation and TSH-binding inhibitory immunoglobin (TBII). In multivariate analysis in female patients, the risk factors were: preoperative lower serum calcium level, younger age, higher serum alkaline phosphatase concentration, larger size of goitre and higher value of TBII, in order of decreasing probability of significance.

Conclusion: These results, combined with previous observations in which a significant decline in serum parathyroid hormone level was found in patients with Graves' disease who suffered postoperative tetany, suggests that postoperative tetany may occur during the period of bone restoration due to antithyroid drug therapy and be due to continuation of a calcium flux bone concomitant with transient hypoparathyroidism induced by surgery. Calcium supplements during preoperative period and/or after surgery may be appropriate for patients who are anticipated to develop postoperative tetany based on these risk factors.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Alkaline Phosphatase / blood
  • Autoantibodies / blood
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Child
  • Female
  • Graves Disease / blood
  • Graves Disease / pathology
  • Graves Disease / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulins, Thyroid-Stimulating
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Receptors, Thyrotropin / blood
  • Risk Factors
  • Tetany / blood
  • Tetany / etiology*
  • Tetany / pathology
  • Thyroid Gland / pathology
  • Thyroidectomy / adverse effects*


  • Autoantibodies
  • Immunoglobulins, Thyroid-Stimulating
  • Receptors, Thyrotropin
  • thyrotropin-binding inhibitory immunoglobulin
  • Alkaline Phosphatase
  • Calcium