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Open access

Elizabeth M Madill, Shamil D Cooray and Leon A Bach

Summary

Thyrotoxicosis is an under-recognised but clinically important complication of parathyroidectomy. We report a case of a 37-year-old man with tertiary hyperparathyroidism who initially developed unexplained anxiety, diaphoresis, tachycardia, tremor and hyperreflexia one day after subtotal parathyroidectomy. Thyroid biochemistry revealed suppressed thyroid stimulating hormone and elevated serum free T4 and free T3 levels. Technetium-99m scintigraphy scan confirmed diffusely decreased radiotracer uptake consistent with thyroiditis. The patient was diagnosed with thyrotoxicosis resulting from palpation thyroiditis. Administration of oral beta-adrenergic antagonists alleviated his symptoms and there was biochemical evidence of resolution fourteen days later. This case illustrates the need to counsel patients about thyroiditis as one of the potential risks of parathyroid surgery. It also emphasises the need for biochemical surveillance in patients with unexplained symptoms in the post-operative period and may help to minimise further invasive investigations for diagnostic clarification.

Learning points

  • Thyroiditis as a complication of parathyroidectomy surgery is uncommon but represents an under-recognised phenomenon.

  • It is thought to occur due to mechanical damage of thyroid follicles by vigorous palpation.

  • Palpation of the thyroid gland may impair the physical integrity of the follicular basement membrane, with consequent development of an inflammatory response.

  • The majority of patients are asymptomatic, however clinically significant thyrotoxicosis occurs in a minority.

  • Patients should be advised of thyroiditis/thyrotoxicosis as a potential complication of the procedure.

  • Testing of thyroid function should be performed if clinically indicated, particularly if adrenergic symptoms occur post-operatively with no other cause identified.