Wanting to find a way of identifying patients suitable for early discharge after thyroidectomy, we set out to establish whether ionized calcium concentration is a better predictor of post-surgical hypocalcemia than total serum calcium. Data were analyzed to establish whether serum ionized calcium concentrations are correlated with total serum calcium levels and symptomatic hypocalcemia after thyroidectomy. Sixty-two patients undergoing total thyroidectomy at the Department of Surgical Sciences of the “Sapienza” University of Rome, Italy, in 2010. Ionized calcium was measured before (day 0) and after surgery (days 1, 2 and 60) in all the patients. These measurements were compared with preoperative (day 0) and postoperative total serum calcium
levels (days 1, 2 and 60).
The preoperative ionized calcium levels differed from the ionized calcium levels recorded on days 1 and 2; this pattern was not observed for the total calcium concentrations. Conversely, total calcium on days I and II correlated significantly with the various ionized calcium measurements.
The presence of parathyroid glands in the surgical specimen did not seem to affect suitability for discharge. The statistical analysis showed that ionized calcium measurements are more reliable than total calcium measurements in the immediate and long-term follow-up of total thyroidectomy patients. Applying a 95% confidence interval we established reference values for both total serum calcium and ionized calcium, below which all patients develop postoperative symptomatic hypocalcemia.
In conclusion, measurement of ionized calcium, as opposed to total calcium, should be strongly recommended in the immediate and longterm follow-up of total thyroidectomy patients.