What is a Parathyroidectomy?

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  • Written By: P.S. Jones
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 28 February 2020
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A parathyroidectomy is the surgical removal of one or more parathyroid glands, which are small hormone glands in the neck. These glands can become diseased or simply malfunction, affecting other organs and causing systems to shut down. Recovery time can be about a day or two for otherwise healthy patients, but it may be longer for those with other serious health problems. A parathyroidectomy may also simply be called parathyroid gland removal.

The thyroid gland is one the largest hormone glands in the body, and can be found in the front of the neck area in the human body. The thyroid gland controls how quickly the body burns energy and makes proteins. Parathyroid glands are located on the back of the thyroid gland, in groups of four or more. The parathyroid glands release parathormone, a hormone that acts to increase the calcium in the blood and bones. This keeps the body’s calcium levels within a very narrow range, and ensures that the nervous and muscular systems can function properly.

A parathyroidectomy is usually performed to correct a patient’s hyperparathyroidism complications. Hyperparathyroidism is a condition in which the parathyroid glands produce too many hormones, causing a calcium deficiency in a bones and too much calcium in the blood and urine. This can cause the patient to lose bone density, develop weakness in the muscles, and experience continuous fatigue. Over time, it can also develop into osteoporosis and other bone disorders.


A parathyroidectomy usually requires a general anesthetic. The means that the patient is fully asleep, and unaware of the surgery as it happens. There are some cases where the patient receives a local anesthetic instead of general anesthesia. This means that instead of the patient feeling nothing all over their body, only the area affected by the surgery will be numbed. In these cases, the patient feels no pain, but will still be awake and aware of what is going on around him.

Most of the time, the parathyroidectomy is an open surgery, which means that the work is done within a large incision. A 4 to 6 inch (10.16 to 15.24 cm) incision is made in the patient’s neck, just under the Adam’s apple area, and the surgeon removes the diseased parathyroid glands through it. Another method is video-assisted parathyroidectomy, in which an additional incision is made in the neck for a tiny camera. The camera helps the surgeon get close enough to locate and removed the very small parathyroid glands.

Sometimes the surgeon performs a parathyroid gland removal with the help of a radioactive nuclear substance. This is called a radio guided parathyroidectomy. The patient is injected with the substance, and surgery is scheduled for when the material has traveled to the parathyroid gland. During the surgery, the surgeon will use a special probe that detects the nuclear material. Then he can locate the parathyroid glands for removal.


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