Importance of radio-guided minimally invasive parathyroidectomy using hand-held gamma probe and low (99m)Tc-MIBI dose. Technical considerations and long-term clinical results

Q J Nucl Med. 2003 Jun;47(2):129-38.


Aim: (99m)Tc-MIBI radio-guided surgery results, obtained in a group of 141 patients with primary hyperparathyroidism (HPT), are reported.

Methods: All patients were preoperatively evaluated by a single day protocol based on double-tracer parathyroid scintigraphy and neck ultrasound, and then operated by the same surgical team. In 102 patients (72.3%) with a high scan/ultrasound probability of solitary parathyroid adenoma and normal thyroid gland, a minimally invasive radio-guided surgery was planned. In the other 39 patients (27.7%) with scan/ultrasound evidence of multi-glandular disease (n=8) or concomitant nodular goiter (n=31), the intraoperative gamma probe was used during a standard bilateral neck exploration. Intraoperative quick parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels were routinely measured. The minimally invasive radio-guided surgery technique we developed, consisted of: a) injection of a low 37 MBq (99m)Tc-MIBI dose in the operative theatre during anaesthesia induction, b) patient's neck scan with a hand-held gamma probe just before the surgical cut to localize the cutaneous projection of the parathyroid adenoma, c) intraoperative probe detection of the parathyroid adenoma and its removal through a small 2-2.5 cm skin incision.

Results: Minimally invasive radio-guided surgery was successfully performed in 99/102 patients (97.0%). The gamma probe was particularly useful in patients with an ectopic parathyroid adenoma in the upper mediastinum (n=11) or to the carotid bifurcation (n=1) or located deep in the neck (n=8). Minimally invasive radio-guided surgery was also obtained in 18/23 patients who had previously undergone thyroid/parathyroid surgery. The mean operative time for minimally invasive radio-guided surgery was 38 min. No major surgical complication was recorded. Conversion to bilateral neck exploration was required in only 3 cases because of intra-operative diagnosis of parathyroid carcinoma (n=2), and persistence of elevated quick PTH levels after removal of the preoperatively visualized parathyroid adenoma (n=1). Among patients treated by standard bilateral neck exploration, the gamma probe was useful in localizing a thymical enlarged parathyroid gland in 1 patient with multi-glandular disease, a parathyroid adenoma located deep in the neck in 4 patients with concomitant nodular goiter and an ectopic parathyroid adenoma to the carotid bifurcation in another. However, in some other patients with a parathyroid adenoma located near to the thyroid, it was difficult to intraoperatively distinguish the parathyroid adenoma from a MIBI avid thyroid nodule.

Conclusion: It can be concluded that: (a) in primary HPT patients with high scan/ultrasound probability of solitary parathyroid adenoma and normal thyroid gland, the gamma probe appears to be an effective, rapid and safe technique to perform minimally invasive radio-guided surgery; b) a (99m)Tc-MIBI dose as low as 37 MBq appears to be adequate to successfully perform radio-guided surgery; c) the measurement of quick PTH is recommended during minimally invasive radio-guided surgery; d) minimally invasive radio-guided surgery can be performed also in HPT patients with previous parathyroid/thyroid surgery thus limiting surgical trauma; e) with the possible exception of parathyroid adenoma located in ectopic sites or deep in the neck, the gamma probe technique does not seem recommendable in HPT patients with concomitant nodular goiter.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Gamma Cameras*
  • Humans
  • Hyperparathyroidism / diagnostic imaging*
  • Hyperparathyroidism / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Minimally Invasive Surgical Procedures / methods*
  • Parathyroidectomy / methods*
  • Radiation Protection / methods
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Surgery, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Technetium Tc 99m Sestamibi* / administration & dosage
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Technetium Tc 99m Sestamibi