Parathyroid Surgery for Parathyroid Adenoma

If you have been diagnosed with a parathyroid adenoma, then you are very likely to be a little frightened and a bit worried about the disease itself, and about parathyroid surgery for parathyroid adenoma.  Most people who are affected have many questions.  What is parathyroid adenoma? What causes it?  How is it treated, and how will I feel after parathyroid adenoma surgery?  Here, we'll address these questions; remember to talk with your doctor about issues pertaining to your personal case.

The Parathyroid Glands

The parathyroid glands are an important part of the endocrine system.  These small glands are normally located in the neck, behind the thyroid gland; in some cases, they are found in the chest or even within the thyroid gland itself.  Your parathyroid glands control vitamin D, phosphorous, and calcium levels within the blood as well as inside the bones, ensuring the body's nervous system and muscles function properly.  Incredibly, these little glands are about the size of a grain of rice.  Most people have at least four of them; two behind each lobe of the thyroid; however, some people have additional pairs of parathyroid glands. 
A parathyroid adenoma is a benign tumor which can cause high blood calcium, leading in turn to serious health complications.  In some cases, people who develop hyperparathyroidism die due to lack of proper treatment. 

Parathyroid Adenoma Symptoms

Approximately 1 in 800 people develop parathyroid adenomas; the symptoms and complications associated with this disease are many.  They can include:
  • Osteoporosis
  • Kidney Stones
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Stroke
  • Confusion
  • Muscle Pain
  • Lethargy
  • Increased Cancer Risk
Many people have no symptoms; in many cases, hyperparathyroidism is discovered when blood tests are conducted for other purposes.  Women over sixty are at the highest risk for developing parathyroid adenoma, though nearly anyone can be affected.

Diagnosing Parathyroid Adenoma

Parathyroid Adenoma is normally diagnosed via blood tests which are conducted to check parathyroid hormone levels, along with chloride, phosphorous, bicarbonate, and calcium levels.  In addition, a 24-hour urine test is often conducted to check for elevated calcium levels within the urine. Bone density exams, MRI's and sestamibi neck scans which may show parathyroid swelling, kidney x-rays, ultrasounds and CT scans, and neck ultrasounds may also be conducted in order to provide a comprehensive diagnosis.

Parathyroid Surgery for Parathyroid Adenoma

There are different types of parathyroid surgery for parathyroid adenoma. The old-fashioned surgery which is required in some cases requires that an incision several inches long be made in the neck, in order to expose the thyroid and parathyroid glands, as well as to avoid inadvertent damage to the many crucial nerves which are located in the tissues surrounding the affected glands.  Most people receiving surgery from a non-parathyroid specialist end up with an effective surgery, however they often have more scarring than they would if they were treated by an ENT specializing in parathyroid surgery for parathyroid adenoma. 

The second type of surgery for treating parathyroid adenoma is sometimes referred to as "band-aid" surgery, or MIRP.  Minimal parathyroid surgery is minimally invasive, often requiring an incision approximately one inch long.  As you might imagine, the scarring, as well as recovery time and the amount of pain associated with the surgery is greatly reduced in cases in which minimal parathyroid surgery for parathyroid adenoma is deemed to be appropriate.  The surgery is less costly and in many cases, patients are able to go home only a few hours after surgery.

Be sure to talk with your doctor about the treatment options that are available to you, and do plan to take at least a week off work following surgery.  The delicate tissues in your neck will need time to heal properly; resting and following your doctor's recommendations will give you the best chance of recovering with no complications.  

Dr. Michael Barakate is a paediatric and adult otolaryngologist located in Sydney, Australia.  For more information on ENT surgery and ENT disorders, visit ENT-Surgery.com.au.



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