Classical primary hyperparathyroidism--a disease of 'bones, stones, and psychic groans'--is a rarity in the US, although it is still seen in some parts of the world. Today, most patients with primary hyperparathyroidism are asymptomatic. This change in clinical profile is not merely because of improved detection techniques, and patients with primary hyperparathyroidism who lack symptoms, if left untreated, rarely develop the 'classical' features that were common previously. Indeed, currently available data suggest that there is, today, a disorder with different, yet characteristic, effects on the end-organs of the hyperparathyroid process. In this review, the features of the skeletal, renal, neuropsychologic, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal manifestations of 'asymptomatic' primary hyperparathyroidism will be discussed. The considerable body of data that has emerged since the recognition of the new clinical profile of primary hyperparathyroidism has allowed a reconsideration of standards of care for this disease. These data were reviewed and incorporated into new clinical guidelines at the 2002 NIH workshop on asymptomatic primary hyperparathyroidism. These recommendations highlight both what is known about the disease, and important areas that need investigation. Continued interest in the skeletal, cardiovascular, and neuropsychiatric manifestations of the disease, and therapeutic trials of medical approaches for its management, will further refine our current understanding, and could lead to additional modifications in the approach to patients with this common endocrine disorder.