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Is numbness of thumb due to damage during surgery?

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Internal Medicine Specialist
Practicing since : 1998
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Age 41, 5'7", 140 lbs, just had partial thyroidectomy due to nodules. Waiting for biopsy results. Immediately after surgery, unable to lift right arm, thumb numb and tingly. Had orthopedic consult, MRI and x-ray inconclusive. Is this nerve damage due to hyperextension of neck during surgery. How long will this take to recover? Is it permanent? What can I do to improve?
Posted Fri, 27 Apr 2012 in Brain and Spine
Answered by Dr. Jasvinder Singh 29 minutes later

Thanks for posting your query.

Numbness of thumb and tingling sensations and inability to lift the arm can be due to two reasons.

1) It can be due to nerve compression or irritation during the surgical procedure. You have to get a NCV( nerve conduction velocity) test done to assess the damage to the nerves.

Oral intake of vitamin B12 also helps with the same. It is less likely to be due to hyperextension of neck.

2) It can be due to hypocalcemia after thyroid surgery.

After thyroid surgery, there is hypoparathroidism. The parathyroid glands produce parathyroid hormone (PTH), which is intimately involved in the regulation of serum calcium.

Inadequate production of PTH leads to hypocalcemia which presents as paresthesias, mental status changes, tetany, carpopedal spasm, laryngospasm etc.

It is transient in most of the patients.

I suggest you to discuss this with your operating surgeon and get your serum calcium levels, PTH levels and NCV test done. Your doctor may recommend temporary calcium supplementation.

Hope this answers your query.

If you have additional questions or follow up queries then please do not hesitate in writing to us. I will be happy to answer your queries.

Thanks and regards.

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