Stepwise Approach for Parathyroid Localisation in Primary Hyperparathyroidism

World J Surg. 2020 Mar;44(3):803-809. doi: 10.1007/s00268-019-05269-4.


Introduction: Primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) is a relatively common condition in surgical practice. Availability of localisation studies has shifted the treatment from bilateral neck exploration to selective parathyroidectomy. Several imaging modalities, each with varying sensitivities, are available to detect abnormal parathyroid glands. Ultrasound is almost universally accepted as the first line radiological investigation however its sensitivity is particularly heterogeneous and operator-dependent.

Material and methods: We studied 250 consecutive patients with PHPT who underwent parathyroidectomy in our hospital over a period of 33 months. Pre-operative neck ultrasound, 99mTc-sestamibi and single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT CT) were performed in 249, 237 and 198 patients respectively. Unilateral and bilateral neck exploration was performed in 190 and 60 patients, respectively. Sensitivity, positive predictive value (PPV) and accuracy were calculated comparing the results with surgical and pathology findings.

Results: Mean pre and postoperative PTH and adjusted calcium were, 11 ± 10.6 pmol/L, 1.9 ± 3.6, 2.81 ± 0.2 and 2.45 ± 0.2 mmol/L. There were 71 (29.95%) discordant results between US, compared to sestamibi and SPECT CT. An average of 1.9 parathyroid glands were removed with a mean weight of 0.92 g. Overall success rate based on postoperative PTH levels was 94.8%. Overall sensitivity, PPV and accuracy for US were 80.80%, 92.35%, and 75.73% respectively; for sestamibi were 71.82%, 94.61%, 69.00% and for SPECT CT were; 70.21%, 97.78%, 69.11% respectively.

Conclusion: Ultrasound performed by an experienced specialist sonographer is highly sensitive in localising abnormal parathyroid glands. It can be used as a main and sole investigation in the majority of patients. Sestamibi, SPECT CT and other investigations should be performed in a step-wise manner and reserved for patients with negative US, failed primary procedure and recurrences.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperparathyroidism, Primary / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neck / diagnostic imaging*
  • Parathyroid Glands / diagnostic imaging*
  • Parathyroidectomy / methods*
  • Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography Computed Tomography
  • Technetium Tc 99m Sestamibi
  • Ultrasonography


  • Technetium Tc 99m Sestamibi