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Your parathyroid glands control the level of calcium in your body by producing hormones. These four tiny glands sit near your thyroid gland but they function on their own and are not in any way related to your thyroid gland.

Normally your parathyroid glands are about the size of a grain of rice. Sometimes one of these glands becomes diseased – growing to an abnormal size and producing too much hormone. This is called hyperparathyroidism.

The symptoms of a diseased parathyroid gland vary. Some patients experience no symptoms. Others present with other conditions such as kidney stones (renal stones). Others experience more subtle symptoms like frequent headaches, fatigue, memory problems and depression.

These symptoms do not necessarily indicate a diseased parathyroid gland. A specialist consultant may order special blood tests to measure the level of calcium in your blood. They may order an MRI or CT scan or an ultrasound to confirm if your parathyroid glands are norm size.

If your consultant confirms you have hyperparathyroidism they may recommend a parathyroidectomy.

What happens during a parathyroidectomy?

A parathyroidectomy is usually performed under general anaesthetic and takes 1-2 hours.

Your consultant will make an incision (cut) in the lower, front part of your neck. The length of your incision will depend on how many glands need to be removed. They will locate any diseased parathyroid glands and remove them. They may send the gland(s) to a lab for analysis. Your wound will be closed with fine stitches or steri-strips.

In recovery you may have a fine tube draining any excess fluid from your wound. This will be removed before you go home.

Your throat may be sore for a few days following your surgery. Be sure and let us know if you are in any pain.

Your length of stay in hospital will depend on the extent of your procedure. Be sure and discuss this with your consultant.

Going home after parathyroidectomy

Continue to take over the counter pain relief if needed. 

You should be able to return to normal activities within a few days. Be sure and discuss any return to work with your surgeon.

Most people make a good recovery from a parathyroidectomy. As with any procedure there could be complications including:

Specific complications of a parathyroidectomy may include:

  • Injury to vocal cords
  • Damage to thyroid gland
  • Parathyroid gland cannot be located (rare)

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