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Will I need to take calcium after thyroid surgery?

What is parathyroid hormone?

The parathyroid glands are attached to the capsule of the thyroid gland and produce parathyroid hormone, which keeps our calcium levels normal. The parathyroid glands require careful preservation during thyroid surgery. Every muscle in your body needs calcium to contract, including your heart! So, a natural question to ask is whether or not thyroid surgery will disrupt the parathyroid glands and your calcium levels after surgery.

While every patient is slightly different, there are some commonalities which depend primarily on the type of surgery that you end up having.

Half of Thyroid Removed During Thyroid Surgery

If a patient has half of their thyroid lobe removed then they will, most likely, not need calcium following thyroid surgery (as long as the patient has not had prior surgery to remove the other thyroid lobe, which could have injured the parathyroid glands on that side).

Total Thyroidectomy During Thyroid Surgery

Just because you have had a total thyroidectomy—your entire thyroid removed—does not always mean calcium is needed automatically. While a patient is in the hospital after thyroid surgery, Dr. Kroeker checks a patient’s parathyroid hormone level and the patient’s calcium level after thyroid surgery. The following day, when a patient is ready to go home, Dr. Kroeker will know whether or not a patient needs calcium based on these levels.

Whether or not a patient needs calcium after thyroid surgery completely depends on how well a patient’s parathyroid glands are functioning after surgery. Not everyone will need calcium following thyroid surgery.

Dr. Kroeker will know immediately following surgery whether or not a patient needs to be on some kind of calcium and vitamin D supplementation program. The parathyroid hormone half-life is 90-120 seconds, so if those parathyroid glands are not working Dr. Kroeker will know very quickly and therefore know whether or not that patient needs calcium supplementation.