Parathyroidectomy

Alternative names
Removal of parathyroid gland; Parathyroid gland removal

Definition
Parathyroidectomy is surgery to remove parathyroid glands or parathyroid tumors.

Description

Parathyroidectomy is performed while the patient is under general anesthesia (unconscious and pain-free). An incision is made in the neck just under the Adam’s apple. The four parathyroid glands are located.

For partial parathyroidectomy, three of the glands are removed, leaving one to help prevent hypoparathyroidism (low levels of parathyroid hormone).

For a total parathyroidectomy, all four glands are removed. The incision is then closed. With this procedure, some of the parathyroid gland tissue is usually re-implanted in the forearm or neck muscles so that some parathyroid hormone will still be produced in the body and hypoparathyroidism can be avoided.

Indications
Parathyroidectomy is recommended when the parathyroid glands produce excessive amounts of parathyroid hormone (hyperparathyroidism).

Risks
Risks for any anesthesia include the following:

     
  • Reactions to medications  
  • Problems breathing

Risks for any surgery include the following:

     
  • Bleeding  
  • Infection

Additional risks for parathyroidectomy include the following:

     
  • Injury to the thyroid gland  
  • Hypoparathyroidism (leading to dangerously low calcium levels)  
  • Injury to the vocal cord nerves

Expectations after surgery

Complete healing without complications usually occurs within 4 weeks. The long-term outlook is excellent.

Serum calcium levels should be monitored daily for several days after this procedure.

Convalescence
Normal activity can be resumed within a few days. Vigorous activity may need to be avoided for up to a month.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 7, 2012
by Sharon M. Smith, M.D.

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