Cervical exploration for primary hyperparathyroidism

J Surg Oncol. 1993 Jan;52(1):14-7. doi: 10.1002/jso.2930520105.


The classical presentation of primary hyperparathyroidism, "moans, bones, groans," is no longer commonly seen since the diagnosis of hypercalcemia is now made much earlier with the routine use of the SMA 12. In the past 8 1/2 years, 85 patients underwent cervical exploration in our institution for primary hyperparathyroidism. There were 34 male and 51 female patients, ranging in age from 18-84 years. The specific symptoms included hypertension in 40 patients, generalized weakness in 25, renal stones in 14, psychiatric problems in 2, and bone changes on X-ray in 4. Forty-one patients were totally asymptomatic. The diagnosis was made mainly on the basis of history, serum calcium and phosphorous levels, parathormone assay, and 24-hour urinary calcium studies. Preoperative localization studies were performed in 38 patients. Thallium technetium subtraction scans, when positive, were very helpful. The surgical approach involved stepwise exploration of both sides of the neck with identification of all four parathyroid glands. In patients with uniglandular pathology (87%), the adenoma was removed with biopsy of at least one normal gland. In multiglandular disease, the abnormal glands were removed. Frozen section was routinely performed to confirm the presence of parathyroid tissue and no attempt was made to pathologically distinguish adenoma from hyperplasia. Two patients had parathyroid carcinoma. In three patients, serum calcium levels did not fall, resulting in an operative success rate of 96%. One patient treated by subtotal parathyroidectomy developed permanent hypoparathyroidism and one other patient developed temporary hypocalcemia. Only a single patient developed vocal cord palsy. Early exploration in patients with primary hyperparathyroidism is indicated. The basic diagnostic workup is sufficient for initial exploration. It is important to distinguish uniglandular from multiglandular pathology after careful bilateral exploration and identification of all four parathyroid glands.

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma / diagnosis
  • Adenoma / surgery*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperparathyroidism / diagnosis
  • Hyperparathyroidism / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parathyroid Glands / pathology
  • Parathyroid Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Parathyroid Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Parathyroidectomy*