What is Parathyroid Surgery?

Parathyroid surgery is a procedure done to identify and remove diseased parathyroid glands. These tiny glands in the neck regulate calcium levels in the body. Occasionally, one or more of the parathyroid glands can become hyperactive, swelling and causing too much calcium to be moved from the bones to the bloodstream. This is called hyperparathyroidism, and it can cause problems including weakness, nervous system disorders, and kidney problems. To treat hyperparathyroidism, overactive parathyroid glands are removed.

One kind of parathyroid surgery is called bilateral neck exploration. The surgeon finds and looks at all of the parathyroid glands on both sides of the neck, visually identifying any that are diseased and removing them. Minimally invasive, or focused, parathyroidectomy is done to remove a single diseased gland. The gland causing problems is identified before surgery using localization techniques such as hormonal or radiology testing. Since in most cases only one gland is causing problems, focused parathyroidectomy is a common alternative to bilateral neck exploration. Both procedures are safe and effective.

In the rare case that all four glands are diseased, the surgeon will either remove three and a half glands and leave one half in place, or all four will be removed and part of one gland will be transplanted into the forearm. This is done to keep calcium levels where they should be.

After surgery, you will have a bandage on your neck and a sore throat. You may only want liquids or very soft food for the first day, and you may be asked to take calcium supplements for a while until your remaining parathyroid glands begin functioning well again. Recovery is fairly quick, and within a few days you should be feeling like yourself again.

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