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What is a Parathyroidectomy?

Parathyroidectomy is the removal of one or more of the parathyroid glands to treat hyperparathyroidism, a condition where the parathyroid glands secrete too much parathyroid hormone (PTH).

About Parathyroid Disease

The parathyroid glands are located behind the thyroid gland in your neck. These glands help your body use calcium. When the glands secrete too much parathyroid hormone (PTH), this causes high levels of calcium in the blood. The kidneys, one of the body's filters, then attempt to filter all the excess calcium from the blood. This increases the risk of kidney stones and kidney damage. Also, excess PTH can cause severe bone loss, known as osteoporosis.

Parathyroid surgery can cure this condition.

Why Choose UVA for Parathyroid Surgery?

Parathyroid surgery is a highly specialized surgery that requires expert skills. Our surgeons perform over 100 such procedures each year.

Who Should Have a Parathyroidectomy?

At UVA, we perform parathyroid surgery on patients of all ages whose calcium levels are elevated, who are experiencing complications from hyperparathyroidism.

You'll have an evaluation in our clinic to see if surgery is the right option for you.

What to Expect

The day of surgery, you'll meet with the surgeon to review the procedure.

The surgery is usually performed with general anesthesia (you will be asleep during the surgery). Surgery lasts about 90 minutes to 3 hours. Usually one or more of the parathyroids is removed with a minimally invasive incision.

We measure the parathyroid hormone during your operation, and it usually drops to normal levels within 10-15 minutes of the gland removal. Occasionally, after the overproducing gland is removed, it may take a while for the remaining glands to begin producing enough parathyroid hormone and calcium supplements may be needed.

Recovery time is usually 5-10 days.

Possible Complications

There are risks with every operation, including a risk of bleeding or infection, but this risk is minimal. With parathyroid surgery, other risks include recurrence of the condition, inability to find the gland, temporary hoarseness and the need for calcium replacement or thyroid supplementation.

In rare cases, if the tumor can't be found, the surgeon will stop your operation and you'll be monitored for the next several months. If your calcium levels are still high, other tests may be performed, including CT or MRI scans, and more surgery may be needed.

Another possible, but extremely rare, complication is laryngeal nerve damage. If one or both nerves are damaged, significant hoarseness can occur.


Experienced surgeons like those at UVA have a success rate of 95 to 98 percent.


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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