Assessment of the morbidity and complications of total thyroidectomy

Neil Bhattacharyya, Marvin P. Fried

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

268 Scopus citations


Objective: To determine the incidence and predictive factors for complications after total thyroidectomy. Design: Cross-sectional analysis of a national database on total thyroidectomy cases. Methods: The National Hospital Data Survey database was examined and all cases of total thyroidectomy performed during 1995 to 1999 were extracted. In addition to demographic information, postoperative complications including hypocalcemia, recurrent laryngeal nerve paralysis, wound complications, and medical morbidities were identified. Statistical analysis was conducted to determine potential predictive factors for postoperative complications. Results: A total of 517 patients were identified (mean age, 48.3 years). The most common indications for total thyroidectomy were thyroid malignancy and goiter (73.9% of cases). Eighty-one patients (15.7%) underwent an associated nodal dissection along with total thyroidectomy, and 16 patients (3.1%) underwent parathyroid reimplantation. The mean length of stay was 2.5 days (95% confidence interval, 2.3-2.8 days). The incidence of post-operative wound hematoma was 1.0%, wound infection was 0.2%, and mortality rate was 0.2%. The incidence of post-operative hypocalcemia was 6.2%. Younger age was statistically associated with an increased incidence of hypocalcemia (P =.002, t test), whereas sex (P=.48), indication for surgery (P =.32), parathyroid reimplantation (P>.99), and associated neck dissection (P=.21) were not. The mean length of stay was 2.5 days and was unaffected by occurrence of postoperative hypocalcemia. The incidences of unilateral and bilateral vocal cord paralyses were 0.77% and 0.39%, respectively. Conclusions: Postoperative hypocalcemia is the most common immediate surgical complication of total thyroidectomy. Other complications, including recurrent laryngeal nerve paralysis, can be expected at rates approximating 1%.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)389-392
Number of pages4
JournalArchives of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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