What Are the Parathyroid Glands?
The parathyroid glands are 4 separate glands that produce a hormone that regulates calcium levels.
Hyperparathyroidism is a condition where the body produces too much parathyroid hormone. The parathyroid hormone pulls calcium out of the body and elevates the levels in the blood. This leads to lower levels in the bones, and higher levels in the blood and urine: osteoporosis, kidney stones, fatigue, constipation, and depression. Primary hyperparathyroidism is where abnormal glands cause overproduction. Blood tests and a thyroid scan can detect this. Secondary hyperparathyroidism is a response to chronic renal failure.
Parathyroidectomy may be accomplished by traditional incision or minimally invasive techniques. The traditional surgery is performed by an incision less than 2 inches. The thyroid gland is exposed, and the neck is explored for the diseased gland(s). This is best if all glands may be abnormal and the majority of parathyroid tissue needs to be removed. If one gland is found with preoperative imaging, a sestamibi-guided parathyroidectomy may be performed.
Medication is given intravenously, and a probe helps localize the abnormal gland. A small incision less than 1 inch is made over the diseased gland, and it is removed. After surgery, the normal gland, which has remained dormant by the overproduction of the diseased gland, takes time to start regulating calcium. Calcium supplements and vitamin D are often given post-operatively until the levels are regulated.