The four small pea-sized parathyroid glands lie behind the thyroid gland. Their primary function is the regulation of calcium levels within the body.
This occurs when one or more of the parathyroid glands produces too much parathyroid hormone (PTH). This is most commonly due to a benign tumour forming within the gland called a parathyroid adenoma. High PTH levels causes calcium to be reabsorbed from the bone resulting in a high calcium level in the bloodstream. This problem is most commonly identified by a high calcium level being found on a routine blood test by a GP. However hyperparathyroidism can also cause the following problems:
- Bone pain
- Osteoporosis and bone fractures
- Kidney stones
- Heart problems
The primary treatment of hyperparathyroidism is to surgically remove the overactive parathyroid gland. In most patients there will only be one parathyroid adenoma and it can usually be located by preoperative scans. In these cases the abnormal gland is removed via a minimally invasive approach. This involves a 1.5-2 cm incision over the abnormal gland. The remaining normal parathyroid glands return the body’s calcium metabolism to normal.