In patients with chronic renal failure, hyperparathyroidism is a common problem and surgical parathyroidectomy (PTX) is frequently required. The three different surgical approaches are subtotal PTX, total PTX with autotransplantation, and total PTX without autotransplantation. Recurrence of hyperparathyroidism varies from 5% to 80% in different studies for the first two surgical approaches. To minimize the risk for recurrence, and because we fear severe relapses with calciphylaxia, we perform total PTX without autotransplantation. From October 1993 to October 1997, 20 patients (9 men and 11 women) underwent total PTX without autotransplantation (median age, 52 years; range, 23 to 74 years; median dialysis time before PTX, 6.5 years; range, 1 to 22 years). All patients were supplemented with vitamin D analogues postoperatively. Patients were followed up for 1 to 48 months (median, 20 months). Bone pain, when present, disappeared within the first week after total PTX. Postoperatively, most patients had temporary hypocalcemia. In the long term, five patients had asymptomatic hypocalcemia. One patient, however, repeatedly had hypocalcemic seizures. Five patients developed asymptomatic hypercalcemia when supplemented with calcitriol. At the end of the individual's observation time, parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels were less than normal in six patients, normal in seven patients, and increased in seven patients despite total PTX. We conclude that total PTX should be reconsidered an option for the treatment of hyperparathyroidism secondary to renal failure. There was no evidence of clinical bone disease after total PTX. Apparently, remaining ectopic parathyroid tissue accounts for PTH levels after total PTX.