Variation in surgical management of primary hyperparathyroidism in the US Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare system: A 15-year observational study

Surgery. 2020 Nov;168(5):838-844. doi: 10.1016/j.surg.2020.05.018. Epub 2020 Jul 19.


Background: Primary hyperparathyroidism is underdiagnosed and undertreated nationally despite the benefits of parathyroidectomy. However, the degree of hospital-level variation in the management of primary hyperparathyroidism is unknown.

Methods: We performed a national, retrospective study of Veterans with primary hyperparathyroidism using the Veterans Affairs Corporate Data Warehouse from January 2000 to September 2015. The objective was to characterize the extent of hospital-level variation in the use of parathyroidectomy for the management of primary hyperparathyroidism within a national, integrated healthcare system. Rate of parathyroidectomy in patients with primary hyperparathyroidism was stratified by (1) geographic region, (2) facility complexity level, (3) volume of parathyroidectomies per facility, and (4) frequency of parathyroid hormone testing in hypercalcemic patients.

Results: Among 47,158 Veterans with primary hyperparathyroidism, 6,048 (12.8%) underwent parathyroidectomy. Rates of parathyroidectomy were significantly higher in the Continental (17.0%) and Pacific (16.0%) regions than in other areas (11.4%, P < .01). The highest complexity referral centers had the highest rate of parathyroidectomy (13.6%) compared with all other facilities (12.1%, P < .01). Centers that performed the highest volume of parathyroidectomies were more likely to offer surgery (13.3%) than low volume centers (8.9%, P < .01). Facilities with higher frequency of parathyroid hormone testing among hypercalcemic patients were more likely to offer parathyroidectomy (15.2%) than those with the lowest parathyroid hormone testing frequency (12.6%, P < .01).

Conclusion: Although there is notable variation in parathyroidectomy use for definitive treatment of primary hyperparathyroidism between Veterans Affairs facilities, parathyroidectomy rates are low across the entire system. Further research is needed to understand additional local contextual and other patient and clinician-level factors for the undertreatment of primary hyperparathyroidism to subsequently guide corrective interventions.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperparathyroidism, Primary / blood
  • Hyperparathyroidism, Primary / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parathyroid Hormone / blood
  • Parathyroidectomy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs


  • Parathyroid Hormone