Parathyroidectomy is safe and improves symptoms in elderly patients with primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT)

Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2009 Dec;71(6):787-91. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2265.2009.03540.x. Epub 2009 Feb 16.


Objective: Parathyroidectomy for primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) is curative in over 95% of cases. Although PHPT affects up to 2% of the elderly population, whose life expectancy may be a decade or more, such patients may be denied surgery because of perceived risk. This study investigates the outcomes of surgery for PHPT in the elderly.

Design and patients: Consecutive patients with PHPT treated at a tertiary referral centre over 5 years.

Measurements: A prospective database recorded clinical, biochemical and pathological information. Pasieka's parathyroid symptom scores were obtained pre-operatively and post-operatively, from a recent subgroup of 70 consecutive patients. Deaths during follow-up were identified using the NHS Strategic Tracing Service. Statistical analysis was performed with spss v12.0.

Results: Between November 2002 and October 2007, 224 patients (17-89 years) underwent surgery for PHPT. In the subgroup comprising patients aged >75 years there was a significantly greater proportion of women (47/56 vs. 52/81, P < 0.05). Pre-operative indices of these patients were similar to younger patients, as were proportions undergoing minimally invasive parathyroidectomy (n = 134) or bilateral neck exploration (n = 90). Patients >75 years had a longer hospital stay (1.6 vs. 0.8 days, P = 0.003). Pasieka's symptom scores improved significantly at 3-6 months postoperatively in all age groups. During a minimum median follow-up of 22 months, there were seven patients with persistent/recurrent disease. Median 2-year survival of those aged 60-74 and those over 75 ranged from 85-90%.

Conclusion: Parathyroidectomy is safe in the elderly and is associated with a significant improvement in symptoms. As survival after operation is similar to younger patients, surgery should be considered in all elderly patients with PHPT.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperparathyroidism, Primary / mortality
  • Hyperparathyroidism, Primary / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parathyroidectomy / adverse effects*
  • Parathyroidectomy / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult