Ten patients are reported following parathyroidectomy (PTX). In 9 all identifiable parathyroid tissue in the neck was deliberately removed, and in the tenth (operated 14 years ago) the remnant which had been left probably did not function. Their post-operative course resembled that of patients treated conventionally, and their subsequent course was likewise uneventful with disappearance of all symptoms associated with their osteodystrophy. All patients required oral calcium supplementation but none were given vitamin D compounds after the initial period of repletion following surgery. Mean serum values were (before PTX and current) for calcium 2.63 +/- 0.14 and 2.33 +/- 0.08 mmol/liter, P = NS, for phosphorus 1.96 +/- 0.13 and 1.38 +/- 0.09 mmol/liter, P less than 0.01, and for alkaline phosphatase 713 +/- 191 and 101 +/- 14 IU, P less than 0.05. Evidence for residual parathyroid tissue was present in each case; one patient remained mildly hyperparathyroid and several were mildly hypoparathyroid by the IRMA PTH assay. Bone histomorphometry in five subjects post-PTX showed either normal or low turnover. Radiologically, striking remineralization was seen with disappearance of all erosive changes. We suggest that residual areas of parathyroid tissue are stimulated and continue to secrete hormone even when all the discrete glands have been removed. It is recommended that when indicated, and in the absence of aluminum excess, total PTX without autotransplant should be the preferred form of therapy for long-term dialysis patients.