A quality improvement project for managing hypocalcemia after pediatric total thyroidectomy

Rob Gonsalves, Ramin Jamshidi, Dorothee Newbern, Gabriel Shaibi, Micah Olson, Reeti Chawla, Sharon H. Gnagi, Oliver J. Oatman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Hypocalcemia following total thyroidectomy (TT) is relatively common. It may result in significant morbidity, prolonged hospital stay, and increased costs. Treatment with intravenous (IV) calcium gluconate may also carry significant risks. In pediatrics, management consensus guidelines are lacking. At Phoenix Children's Hospital, a team of pediatric endocrinologists, surgeons and otolaryngologists developed a clinical pathway for patients undergoing TT. It was a Quality Improvement (QI) project with the primary aim of decreasing IV calcium gluconate use from a baseline of 68% to less than 40% over 15 months. Secondary aims included reducing hypocalcemia and length of hospitalization. Interventions included sending weekly pathway reminder emails, starting pre-operative calcium, and pathway implementation into the electronic health record. Twenty-seven patients underwent TT over 15 months. IV calcium gluconate use dropped to 48%. Hypocalcemia and length of hospitalization were 96% and 52.7 h (range 21.1-115.7) respectively. Pathway adherence improved after targeted interventions. Eleven (73%) of the 15 patients whose post-operative parathyroid hormone (PTH) nadir was below 15 pg/mL required IV calcium gluconate vs. two (17%) out of 12 with levels above this threshold. Standardizing care allowed for objective outcome analysis. We learned that post-operative serum PTH level was the main risk factor for requiring IV calcium gluconate. Implementing the pathway as a QI project allows for revisions based on outcomes, ultimately resulting in a pathway that best utilizes our infrastructure to optimize care. Other pediatric institutions may face similar challenges and can potentially learn from our experience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1443-1448
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Pediatric Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • hypocalcemia
  • quality improvement
  • total thyroidectomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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