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Br J Surg. 2012 Mar;99(3):373-9. doi: 10.1002/bjs.7824. Epub 2012 Jan 9.

Risk factors for postoperative bleeding after thyroid surgery.

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Department of Surgery, Kaiserin Elisabeth Spital, Vienna, Austria.



Postoperative bleeding after thyroid surgery is a feared and life-threatening complication. The aim of the study was to identify risk factors for postoperative bleeding, with special emphasis on the impact of the individual surgeon and the time to diagnosis of the complication.


Data on consecutive thyroid operations were collected prospectively in a database over 30 years and analysed retrospectively for potential risk factors for postoperative bleeding.


There were 30,142 operations and postoperative bleeding occurred in 519 patients (1·7 per cent). Risk factors identified were older age (odds ratio (OR) 1·03 per year), male sex (OR 1·64), extent of resection (OR up to 1·41), bilateral procedure (OR 1·99) and operation for recurrent disease (OR 1·54). The risk of complications among individual surgeons differed by up to sevenfold. Postoperative bleeding occurred in 336 (80·6 per cent) of 417 patients within the first 6 h after surgery. Postoperative bleeding was diagnosed after 24 h in ten patients (2·4 per cent), all of whom had bilateral procedures. Nine patients required urgent tracheostomy. Three patients died, giving a mortality rate of 0·01 per cent overall and 0·6 per cent among patients who had surgery for postoperative bleeding.


Observation for up to 24 h is recommended for the majority of patients undergoing bilateral thyroid surgery in an endemic goitre area. Same-day discharge is feasible in selected patients, especially after a unilateral procedure. Quality improvement by continuous outcome monitoring and retraining of individual surgeons is suggested.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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