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A Journal on Endocrine System Diseases

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Minerva Endocrinologica 2008 June;33(2):85-93

language: English

Surgical treatment of primary hyperparathyroidism: from bilateral neck exploration to minimally invasive surgery

Pelizzo M. R. 1, Pagetta C. 2, Piotto A. 1, Sorgato N. 1, Merante Boschin I. 1, Toniato A. 1, Grassetto G. 2, Rubello D. 2

1 Institute of Surgical Pathology and Clinical Propedeutic, Hospital University of Padua, Padua, Italy
2 Nuclear Medicine Service, PET Centre, “Santa Maria della Misericordia” Rovigo Hospital, Istituto Oncologico Veneto (IOV)-IRCCS, Rovigo, Italy


The human parathyroid glands, first described by Sandström in 1880, attracted interest because they were subject to inadvertent removal or ischemic injury during radical thyroid surgery. That this caused metabolic derangements was not known until many years later. Following on Kocher’s studies, research continued to improve techniques sparing the parathyroids during thyroid surgery but without developing parathyroid surgery as such. For over a century, the lack of suitable surgical instruments, accurate preoperative localizing imaging techniques, and reliable laboratory tests hindered the evolution of parathyroid surgery, relegating it a marginal existence. Only after 1930, when it became clear that hyperparathyroidism is caused by an increased production of parathyroid hormone (PTH) by overactive parathyroid glands in the neck and/or the mediastinum, could parathyroid surgery, which shares a similar approach with thyroid surgery, be developed for treating hyperparathyroidism. The aim of parathyroid surgery is to cure hyperparathyroidism. Until advanced surgical and laboratory diagnostic technologies became available, concern about the risk of failure led surgeons to search all four glands by bilateral neck exploration, which proved unnecessary in 80% of cases. Recent years have seen parathyroid surgery evolve with the introduction of more efficacious preoperative localization imaging techniques and the use of rapid intraoperative parathormone assay, so that parathyroid surgery is now more selective and can be performed as a minimally invasive procedure in some cases.

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