Prevalence of Thymic Parathyroids in Primary Hyperparathyroidism During Radioguided Parathyroidectomy

Clin Med Insights Endocrinol Diabetes. 2019 Aug 14:12:1179551419869917. doi: 10.1177/1179551419869917. eCollection 2019.


Background: Radioguided surgery has been an effective tool for identifying hyperfunctioning parathyroid glands during routine parathyroidectomy for hyperparathyroidism. The purpose of this study was to examine the role of radioguided surgery for the identification of intrathymic parathyroid glands.

Material and methods: Between March 2001 and February 2018, 2291 patients underwent parathyroidectomy by 1 surgeon for primary hyperparathyroidism. Of these patients, 158 (7%) were identified to have an ectopic intrathymic parathyroid gland. All patients underwent radioguided parathyroidectomy. Ex vivo radionuclide counts were used to confirm parathyroid excision with specimen radioactivity of >20% of the background level.

Results: The mean age was 56 ± 1 years with 74% of the patients being female. Preoperatively, 122 patients underwent sestamibi scan, which correctly identified the affected gland 61% of the time. Mean background radionuclide count was 208 ± 7, mean ex vivo radionuclide count was 127 ± 9, with ex vivo counts of removed glands >20% in all patients. All ectopic parathyroid glands were successfully identified using gamma probe. Ex vivo counts found to be significantly higher in patients with adenomas. Patients with parathyroid adenomas also were older in age and had higher preoperative calcium levels. While 10% of patients with primary hyperparathyroidism have hyperplasia, 42% of patients with thymic parathyroids had hyperplasia.

Conclusions: Radioguided parathyroidectomy is useful in detecting ectopic parathyroid glands in the thymus. Patients with hyperplasia disproportionately have clinically significant thymic parathyroid glands.

Keywords: ectopic parathyroid; hyperparathyroidism; hyperplasia; parathyroidectomy; radioguided surgery.