Risks of Thyroidectomy

Two of the most common complications of thyroidectomy are as follows:

  1. Hoarseness. The nerves to the vocal cords run under the thyroid gland on either side of the neck. Injury to the nerve causes hoarseness. Only 1% of the time is the hoarseness permanent. There can be a temporary nerve injury in up to 5% of patients. Twenty-five percent of patients will have mild and temporary hoarseness due to swelling and operating around the voice box that is not related to a nerve injury. This form of voice dysfunction will improve over several weeks.
  2. Another possible complication is a low blood calcium due to hypoparathyroidism. Approximately 25% of patients experience a temporary low calcium after surgery. Low calcium can cause a feeling of numbness or “pins and needles.” Low calcium can also lead to muscle spasms. We will check the calcium levels in the blood after surgery, and if necessary, we will treat you with calcium supplements and vitamin D after surgery to keep the calcium levels normal. However, only 5% patients will need to take calcium and Vitamin D supplements on a long-term basis due to hypoparathyroidism. Calcium problems do not occur after a hemithyroidectomy.

This information is provided by the Department of Surgery at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. It is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition.