This page will give you information about a parathyroidectomy. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.
What are the parathyroid glands?
Most people have four parathyroid glands, which are in the neck and control the balance of calcium in your body 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 surgery?
Any symptoms 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).
Figure 1: The thyroid gland from the front
What complications can happen?
- Infection in the surgical site (wound)
- Unsightly scarring
- Blood clots
- 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.
A normal gland that was not removed may become overactive in the future.
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.
Author: Mr Keith Rigg FRCS MD
Illustrations: Hannah Ravenscroft RM
This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.