Background: Population-based screenings for primary hyperparathyroidism have failed to systematically use intact parathyroid hormone (PTH) values for diagnosis, to explore prevalence and diagnostic criteria of normocalcemic hyperparathyroidism, and to attempt surgical verification of the disorder.
Methods: A total of 5202 women (ages, 55 to 75 years) attending a population-based mammography screening were investigated for primary hyperparathyroidism. In women lacking a family history of hypercalcemia, significant renal impairment, or low urinary calcium excretion hyperparathyroidism was diagnosed on the basis of predetermined criteria encompassing lower intact serum PTH levels in hypercalcemia (serum PTH 25 ng/L or greater; reference range, 12 to 55 ng/L) than in two intervals of normocalcemia (serum PTH 35 or greater, greater than 55 ng/L).
Results: Prevalence of hyperparathyroidism was 2.1% (n = 109). At diagnosis total serum calcium and serum PTH levels were 2.32 to 3.19 mmol/L and 34 to 300 ng/L, respectively, and 66% of the women exhibited normocalcemia. Repeated examination showed persistent normocalcemia in 30 patients, and all but two of them had normal ionized plasma calcium levels. Significantly higher serum calcium, serum PTH, and urine calcium--but not serum creatinine--levels were found in patients with hyperparathyroidism compared with matched control subjects from the screened population. Within an ongoing stratified treatment program, 59 of 60 patients who underwent operation exhibited pathologic parathyroid tissue (mean weight, 591 mg).
Conclusions: Substantial prevalence of sporadic primary hyperparathyroidism is demonstrated in a risk group. Although criteria for hyperparathyroidism recognition included patients with truly mild biochemical derangement, operative findings suggested underdiagnosis of the disorder.