Parathyroidectomy

Surgery to remove one or more of the parathyroid glands

About a parathyroid glands

Your parathyroid glands are located in your neck, behind your thyroid gland. They regulate the calcium level in your blood. You have four parathyroid glands and each is about the size of a grain of rice.

Sometimes one or more of these glands stops working properly, causing your calcium levels to increase above normal levels. This is called primary hyperparathyroidism.

The condition is usually diagnosed through a blood test which shows increased levels of calcium. You may have another blood test to check for elevated levels of parathyroid hormones.

Prior to a parathyroidectomy you may be referred for scans to help identify which of the glands is overactive:

  • an ultrasound scan

  • a sestamibi scan

  • a CT neck scan

How is a parathyroidectomy carried out?

A parathyroidectomy is usually done under general anaesthetic, so you'll be asleep during surgery. The operation usually takes less than an hour. 

If the position of the affected parathyroid gland is known, your surgeon may be able to carry out the operation using focussed surgery without seeing the other glands.

If the position of the abnormal gland is not known then you may need surgery to visualise all the parathyroid glands before removing the affected one. Discuss the best solution for your specific case with your surgeon.

After a parathyroidectomy

You'll need to stay in hospital overnight following your operation.

You should be able to eat and drink normally but it may feel as though you have a lump in your throat. This will go away.

It normally takes 24 hours for the calcium levels in your blood to get back to normal. You'll need to have blood tests after your operation to check your calcium levels. Occasionally your calcium levels temporarily fall too low after surgery, so you may need to take calcium tablets.

If you have a desk job, you may be able to go back to work after one week. If you have a more physical job, you may need to wait longer.

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Published: 31 January 2020 | Review: 31 January 2023

Disclaimer: This information is published by Cromwell Hospital and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence and experience from over 30 years of treating patients. It has been peer reviewed by Cromwell Hospital doctors. The content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional. If you have any feedback on the content of this patient information document please email info@cromwellhospital.com or telephone 020 7460 5901.