Parathyroid Surgery

This surgery involves removing one or more of the parathyroid glands. The surgery is called a parathyroidectomy.

This surgery involves removing one or more of the parathyroid glands. The surgery is called a parathyroidectomy.

There are four parathyroid glands. They are located near the center of the neck behind the thyroid gland. The parathyroid glands help control calcium levels in the blood and bone.

  • A parathyroidectomy is the removal of one or more of the parathyroid glands through a small incision in the lower front section of the neck.
  • Removal of the parathyroid gland(s) may be recommended if one or more of the glands are producing too much parathyroid hormone. This is known as hyperparathyroidism.
  • The number of parathyroid glands removed depends on the specific circumstances. However, usually there will be parathyroid glands left to allow for normal function and prevent low parathyroid hormone levels (hypoparathyroidism).

Hyperparathyroidism (high levels of parathyroid hormone) may occur because of the following:

  • A problem with the parathyroid glands (primary hyperparathyroidism), which can be due to a noncancerous growth called an adenoma (most common), a cancerous growth (very rare) or enlargement of the glands resulting in over-activity.
  • Another condition that leads to enlargement and excess function of the parathyroid glands is known as secondary hyperparathyroidism. This can occur as a result of other medical conditions a person has, such as kidney failure.

Primary hyperparathyroidism is associated with an excessive amount of the parathyroid hormone being excreted. This can result in a high level of calcium in the blood (hypercalcemia).

Some of the symptoms associated with high levels of parathyroid hormone are:

  • Pain in the bones and joints and bones that break easily (osteoporosis)
  • Kidney stones and excessive urination
  • Pain in the abdomen with nausea, vomiting or loss of appetite
  • Feeling weak and tiring easily
  • Depression or forgetfulness

The most common treatment for primary hyperparathyroidism is removal of one or more of the parathyroid gland(s). Prior to the surgery, tell your healthcare provider about any medications you are taking (including over-the-counter medications and supplements). Ask about specific instructions you should follow before the surgery. These may include:

  • Medications you should not take before the surgery, such as blood thinners or aspirin
  • Regular medications you should continue to take on the day of your surgery
  • How many hours you should stop eating and drinking before surgery

If you are a smoker, you should quit smoking, as it can interfere with your recovery.

During your surgery, you will receive anesthesia to keep you comfortable and pain free.

  • General anesthesia is the most common type of anesthesia for a removal of the parathyroid gland(s). This is where you are put into a deep sleep and are unable to see, hear or feel anything.
  • You will probably go home the day of your surgery, but may need pain medication and help at home while you recover.

What should I ask my healthcare provider before having a removal of my parathyroid gland(s)?

  • What is my diagnosis and reason for the surgery? Are there nonsurgical alternatives available to me? How will the surgery affect my daily life?
  • What tests do I need? What is the reason for those tests? Will the test results change my treatment plan?
  • How many parathyroidectomies have you done? What have your results been?
  • Is there any special preparation for the surgery? (If so, get clear instructions on what you need to do.)
  • What kind of anesthesia will I have? What are the possible side effects?
  • What type of recovery should I expect and how long will it take?
  • When might I start to see improvement in my symptoms?
  • What are my follow-up plans and what symptoms should I report before my next appointment?

Make sure you understand your treatment plan, any possible alternatives and what medications are recommended (including possible side effects). Do not forget to make arrangements for transportation to and from the facility and for help at home. Your surgeon should also let your primary care physician know the details of your surgery and treatment plan.


Also known as:

Remove Parathyroid Gland
Parathyroid Surgery
Parathyroid Removal
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