What are the parathyroid glands?
Most people have four parathyroid glands, which are in the neck and control the balance of calcium in your blood by making parathyroid hormone (PTH). One or more of the parathyroid glands can become overactive, causing an increase in the level of calcium.
What are the benefits of a parathyroidectomy?
Symptoms associated with your overactive parathyroid should improve. Surgery will also help to reduce the risk of damage to your bones, kidneys or heart.
Are there any alternatives to surgery?
Sometimes you can have medication if the calcium level is not too high or if surgery would be too dangerous because of other medical problems you may have.
What does the operation involve?
A parathyroidectomy is usually performed under a general anaesthetic. The operation usually takes about an hour.
Your surgeon will make a cut in your neck in the line of one of your skin creases and remove any enlarged glands (see figure 1).
What complications can happen?
General complications of any operation:
- Infection of the surgical site (wound)
- Unsightly scarring
- Blood clots
Specific complications of this operation:
- Change in your voice
- Breathing difficulties
- Drop in calcium levels
- Failure of the operation
How soon will I recover?
You should be able to go home after one to two days.
You should be able to return to work and normal activities after about two weeks.
Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, you should ask a member of the healthcare team or your GP for advice.
Occasionally a normal gland that was not removed becomes overactive.
Parathyroid glands can become overactive, causing an increase in the level of calcium in the blood. Surgery to remove any affected glands is the only reliable way to prevent long-term problems.
Paying for your procedure
Parathyroidectomy costs are covered by most medical insurance policies, but please check with your insurer first. If you are paying for your own procedure the cost will be explained and confirmed in writing when you book the procedure. Ask the hospital for a quote beforehand, and ensure that this includes the surgeon’s fee, the anaesthetist’s fee and the hospital charge for your procedure.
Author: Mr Keith Rigg FRCS MD
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