What is a parathyroid surgery?

Parathyroid surgery, or a parathyroidectomy, is a procedure during which the doctor removes part or all of your parathyroid glands.

When is it used?

There are four parathyroid glands located on the outside borders of the thyroid gland in the front of the neck.

The parathyroid glands help control the levels of calcium and phosphorous in the blood. When over-activity of the parathyroid glands develops, it is called hyperparathyroidism. This causes increased levels of calcium in the blood. You might experience muscle weakness, premature thinning of the bones, kidney stones, decreased alertness, frequent urination, and occasional joint discomfort.

What happens during the procedure?

In most cases, you will receive a general anesthetic. A general anesthetic will prevent you from feeling pain during the operation.

The surgeon will make a cosmetically placed incision in your neck and expose the parathyroid glands. He or she will remove all or part of your parathyroid glands depending on your condition. The incision is closed with sutures beneath the skin.

What happens after the procedure?

You are usually in the hospital overnight and might go home the next day. You might have some swelling in your neck with local discomfort. Depending upon your calcium level, you might need to take additional calcium to avoid the symptoms of low calcium (occasional numbness and tingling in the extremities).

Ask your surgeon what other steps you should take and when you should come back for a checkup.

What are the benefits of this procedure?

You will no longer have high calcium levels in your blood. The abnormal parathyroid gland(s) have been removed.

By eliminating the high calcium level in your blood, you will be protected from the short- and long-term consequences of calcium elevation.

What are the risks associated with this procedure?

With parathyroid surgery, the risks are minimal but might include:

  • Blood loss
  • Infection

In addition, an occasional patient might have transient hoarseness, which is rarely permanent. Rarely, a patient might have a recurrence of hyperparathyroidism as the disease develops in a previously unaffected gland.

When should I call the doctor?

Call the doctor immediately if:

  • You develop a fever.
  • You notice numbness or tingling in your face, lips, or hands that is not controlled with your calcium supplement.
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