Parathyroidectomy surgically removes one or more of the parathyroid glands. There are usually four parathyroid glands, each about the size of a grain of rice, that are located behind the thyroid gland in the neck.

The parathyroid glands regulate the amount of calcium in the blood by the production of parathyroid hormone (PTH). Sometimes one or more of these parathyroid glands overact (hyperparathyroidism) and cause the blood calcium level to rise above normal. This can lead to neuromuscular symptoms, osteoporosis and bone loss, and kidney stones.

Most patients with hyperparathyroidism have one or more of these symptoms. The majority of patients with hyperparathyroidism have a single abnormal gland (a benign parathyroid adenoma). The remaining patients may have multiple abnormal parathyroid glands (parathyroid hyperplasia/multigland disease).

Minimally Invasive Operation

An imaging test called a sestamibi scan can localize up to 85-90% of parathyroid adenomas, allowing for a "minimally invasive" parathyroidectomy. If a parathyroid adenoma is localized, a small incision is made to remove only the abnormal single gland. 

The advantages of this operation include:

  • A smaller incision and scarLess pain
  • No need for a stay in the hospital
  • Faster recovery

Standard Operation

The standard parathyroidectomy procedure is the four-gland neck exploration. It is performed by making a small incision (4 cm) in the neck. All four glands are then identified, and the enlarged gland(s) are removed. Biopsies may be done of one or more of the normal glands.