Modification, validation and implementation of a protocol for post-thyroidectomy hypocalcaemia

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INTRODUCTIONThe management of post-thyroidectomy hypocalcaemia should facilitate early discharge, and reduce risks of hypocalcaemia, readmission and treatment related hypercalcaemia. This paper describes the implementation, evaluation and revision a protocol for the optimal management of this condition.METHODSDay 1 parathyroid hormone (PTH) measurements in addition to calcium measurements were commenced following review of the unit's outcomes and literature on post-thyroidectomy hypocalcaemia. Outcomes from a three-year cohort of patients undergoing thyroid surgery helped amend this protocol (revision 1) to reduce biochemical tests, stipulate the need, nature and dose of vitamin D/calcium supplements, and encourage early discharge. This was further validated over seven months to assess compliance, episodes of hyper and/or hypocalcaemia after discharge, readmissions and need for treatment changes. Further revisions were made (revision 2) and implemented.RESULTSThe temporary and long-term postoperative hypocalcaemia rates were 29.1% and 3.2% respectively. Repeat calcium measurements on the first day altered management in only 1.4% of cases.The revised protocol was adhered to in 90% of cases. One patient had hypocalcaemia (due to non-compliance) and one had hypercalcaemia. Revision 2 involved reducing the dose of calcium.CONCLUSIONSThis is a good example of a unit protocol for post-thyroidectomy hypocalcaemia being developed and modified on the basis of the literature and local experience. Day 1 PTH and calcium levels determine the need for treatment and frequency of follow-up visits, facilitate early discharge, reduce risk of over and/or undertreatment, and are good indicators of permanent hypocalcaemia.

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