99mTc-MIBI radio-guided minimally invasive parathyroidectomy: experience with patients with normal thyroids and nodular goiters

Thyroid. 2002 Jan;12(1):53-61. doi: 10.1089/105072502753451977.


The surgical approach to primary hyperparathyroidism (HPT) is changing. In patients with a high probability to be affected by a solitary parathyroid adenoma (PA), a unilateral neck exploration (UNE) or a minimally invasive radio-guided surgery (MIRS) using the intraoperative gamma probe (IGP) technique have recently been proposed. We investigated the role of IGP in a group of 84 patients with primary HPT who were homogeneously evaluated before surgery by a single-day imaging protocol including 99mTcO4/MIBI subtraction scan and neck ultrasound (US) and then operated on by the same surgical team. Quick parathyroid hormone (QPTH) was intraoperatively measured in all cases to confirm successful parathyroidectomy. In 70 patients with scan/US evidence of a single enlarged parathyroid gland (EPG) and with a normal thyroid gland, MIRS was planned. In the other 14 patients, the IGP technique was utilized during a standard bilateral neck exploration (BNE) because of the presence of concomitant nodular goiter (11 cases) or multiglandular disease (MGD) (3 cases). The IGP technique consisted of the following: (1) in the operating room, a low 99mTc-MIBI dose (37 MBq) was injected intravenously during anesthesia induction; (2) subsequently, the patient's neck was scanned with the probe by the surgeon to localize the cutaneous projection of the EPG; (3) in patients who underwent MIRS, the EPG was detected intraoperatively with the probe and removed through a small, 2 to 2.5 cm skin incision; (4) radioactivity was measured on the EPG both in vivo and ex vivo, the thyroid, the background and the parathyroid bed after EPG removal. In patients with concomitant nodular goiter, the radioactivity was also measured on the thyroid nodules. Surgical and pathologic findings were consistent with a single PA in 78 patients, parathyroid carcinoma in 2, and MGD in 4. MIRS was successfully performed in 67 of the 70 patients (97.7%) in whom this approach was planned. It must be pointed out that the IGP technique was particularly useful in detecting the PAs located in ectopic site (5 in the upper mediastinum, 2 at the carotid bifurcation) and deep in the neck (6 in the paratracheal/paraesophageal space). Moreover, MIRS was also successfully performed in the seven patients who had undergone previous parathyroid or thyroid surgery. In the other 3 of 70 patients (4.3%), a conversion to BNE was required because a parathyroid carcinoma (2 cases) and a MGD (1 case) were diagnosed during surgical intervention. It is worth noting that in this latter patient affected by MGD, in contrast with the other patients from our series, QPTH remained elevated after the removal of the preoperatively visualized EPG suggesting the persistence of occult hyperfunctioning parathyroid tissue, and another contralateral EPG was found at BNE. Regarding the group of patients in whom a BNE was planned, the IGP helped the surgeon to localize a supernumerary EPG ectopic in the thymus in a patient with MGD, and to localize a PA ectopic to the right carotid bifurcation in a patient with nodular goiter. However, it has to be pointed out that it was difficult for the surgeon to differentiate intraoperatively with the probe the radioactivity of the EPG from that of thyroid nodule(s) in the other 10 patients with HPT with a concomitant nodular goiter, particularly in 6 patients in whom 99mTc-MIBI uptake was higher in thyroid nodule(s) than in EPG. On the basis of these data we can conclude that: (1) in patients with primary HPT with a high scan/US probability to be affected by a single PA and with a normal thyroid gland, IGP appears to be an useful technique with the aim of performing MIRS; (2) a 99mTc-MIBI dose as low as 37 MBq appears to be adequate to successfully perform MIRS; (3) the measurement of QPTH is strongly recommended in patients with HPT selected for MIRS to confirm complete removal of hyperfunctioning parathyroid tissue; (4) MIRS can be useful also in patients with HPT who previously received parathyroid/thyroid surgery with the aim of limiting surgical trauma at reoperation and minimizing the related risk of complications; (5) with the exception of PA located in ectopic sites, IGP does not seem to be a recommendable technique in patients with HPT concomitant nodular goiter.

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma / diagnostic imaging
  • Adenoma / surgery
  • Goiter, Nodular / complications*
  • Humans
  • Hyperparathyroidism / complications
  • Hyperparathyroidism / diagnostic imaging
  • Hyperparathyroidism / surgery*
  • Parathyroid Glands / diagnostic imaging
  • Parathyroid Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Parathyroid Neoplasms / surgery
  • Parathyroidectomy / methods*
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Technetium Tc 99m Sestamibi*
  • Thyroid Gland / diagnostic imaging


  • Technetium Tc 99m Sestamibi