Thyroid Surgery Complications – HypoCalcemia

After surgery one of the complications it is important to watch for is called hypocalcemia. Hypo, means low, and calcemia refers to calcium, so hypocalcium is a condition in which there is too little calcium in the body.

After thyroid surgery the body can sometimes have trouble producing enough calcium, especially in the first few weeks following thyroid surgery. Having too little calcium can be a medical emergency so it is important to know what the symptoms feel like.

Signs and Symptoms of Hypocalcemia:

Numbness, tingling around the mouth
Twitching
Cramping/spasms
Convulsions
Diarrhea
Hypotension or Low blood pressure
Irregular heart rate
Nausea and Vomiting

Thyroid surgeons will generally instruct their patients to be on the lookout for signs of hypocalcemia. Patients are not discharged from the hospital following thyroid surgery until their calcium levels have stabilized. Post operative instructions for thyroid surgery patients generally include instructions regarding watching out for the symptoms of low calcium and taking extra calcium according to the physicians orders.

Note: If you are a patient having thyroid surgery have a relative or friend that can act as your advocate and make sure that your thyroid surgeon has ordered prn (which means as needed) calcium for you in the hospital following your thyroid surgery. If the doctor “forgets” to write the order for calcium “prn” or as needed, and if you happen to have a problem with low calcium following your surgery then there can be a waiting period while the nurse calls the doctor, gets the appropriate order for calcium, and sometimes it is important to get calcium into the body as quickly as possible if this problem happens to you. In my case, I had this exact scenario occur and while my muscles were severely cramping and spasming I asked the nurse to get me some milk from the patient kitchen, and quickly drank 2 containers of milk in order to get some calcium into my body while the staff was waiting for the doctor to call back and write the correct order. Having gone through this situation, I would have had someone check for me before hand to make sure that the calcium was ordered on my medication sheet, BEFORE it was needed. Note: I had my thyroid surgery at one of the supposedly best places in the country, so it is important, regardless of the reputation of the facility to go ahead and be informed and have someone with you to be your advocate following surgery.