Treatment for Parathyroid Glands That Produce Too Much Parathyroid Hormone

The parathyroid glands are four small glands located in your neck behind your thyroid gland. These glands are normally the size of a grain of rice, but have an important job: they and produce parathyroid hormone (PTH), which controls your body’s calcium levels. This hormone helps keep the calcium level between your blood and your bones regulated.

Hyperparathyroidism occurs when one or more of the parathyroid glands become enlarged and produce too much PTH. Hyperparathyroidism is usually caused by a parathyroid adenoma, a benign (noncancerous) tumor on one of the parathyroid glands The tumor causes the parathyroid gland to become overactive and secrete an excess amount of PTH into the blood, causing blood calcium levels to rise. This condition is termed primary hyperparathyroidism..

Women and older adults are at higher risk for this condition, as well as people who have undergone radiation therapy for head and neck cancers and those with severe calcium deficiencies.

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

Hyperparathyroidism is a chronic condition that affects various organ systems. Many people do not have symptoms until calcium levels in the blood are high. When symptoms occur, they can include:

  • Osteoporosis (bone loss)
  • Kidney stones
  • Abdominal pain
  • Depression, anxiety of emotional lability
  • Fatigue
  • Bone and joint pain

Hyperparathyroidism is typically diagnosed with a blood test to measure blood calcium and PTH levels.

At Penn State Health, our team will perform a physical exam and take a thorough medical history, order bloodwork and discuss treatment options.

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Experienced Minimally Invasive Parathyroidectomy Surgeons

Our team of Penn State Health head and neck surgeons have been performing minimally invasive parathyroidectomy (MIP) surgery for more than 15 years, providing patients with quick relief and minimal side effects and scarring.

For patients with primary hyperparathyroidism, MIP is a safer and less-invasive treatment approach. This surgery is performed through a small incision in the neck. The procedure takes less than two hours and patients go home the same day – usually within a few hours. Before MIP, surgeons used a large incision to locate and evaluate all four parathyroid glands during surgical exploration.

Prior to surgery, MIP patients undergo a highly specialized computed tomography (CT) scan known as a 4D-CT. During this procedure, you will be injected with a contrast material that washes out quickly from the thyroid. These studies may be performed to help locate the parathyroid gland with the tumor.

All surgeries come with risk. MIP patients have a very low risk of nerve damage to the vocal cord and a small chance of developing chronically low calcium levels. You will be closely monitored by the experts at Penn State Health to maximize your recovery – and help you return to regular life.

Parathyroid Glands Clinical Trials

Penn State Health conducts leading-edge clinical trials to study the impact of parathyroid gland conditions on patients. Our experts are always trying to learn more about different types of parathyroid disorders and innovative treatment options. To learn more about clinical trials at Penn State Health, visit our StudyFinder.

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