A patient has returned to the floor after having a thyroidectomy for thyroid cancer. The nurse knows that sometimes during thyroid surgery the parathyroid glands can be injured or removed. What laboratory finding may be an early indication of parathyroid gland injury or removal?

Answer Explanation: Injury or removal of the parathyroid glands may produce a disturbance in calcium metabolism and result in a decline of calcium levels (hypocalcemia). As the blood calcium levels fall, hyperirritability of the nerves occurs, with spasms of the hands and feet and muscle twitching. This group of symptoms is known as tetany and must be reported to the physician immediately, because laryngospasm may occur and obstruct the airway. Hypophosphatemia, hyponatremia, and hypokalemia are not expected responses to parathyroid injury or removal. In fact, parathyroid removal or injury that results in hypocalcemia may lead to hyperphosphatemia.

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