A parathyroidectomy is surgery done to remove the parathyroid glands. The parathyroid glands consist of four individual glands attached to the back of the thyroid gland in your neck. These glands regulate the amount of calcium in your blood. When diseased they may cause too much parathyroid hormone (PTH), leading to excess calcium in the bloodstream. This condition is known as hypercalcemia.
A parathyroidectomy is done to treat hyperparathyroidism as a cause of hypercalcemia, an excessive amount of calcium in the bloodstream. A parathyroidectomy may also be done to remove enlarged parathyroid glands (parathyroid hyperplasia) or to remove a parathyroid tumor.
A very small amount of radioactive tracer may be injected into your bloodstream before surgery. This will help your surgeon highlight the diseased glands. You will receive general anaesthesia for this procedure.
Dr Heyns will use a minimally invasive approach to surgery when possible. When done laparoscopically your surgeon will make small incisions and a laparoscope with a camera and light will be inserted to visualise the glands. This approach reduces visible scarring, pain, and recovery time.
Once asleep he will make a small incision in the centre of your neck. The muscles of the neck and the thyroid gland are moved to the side to gain access to the parathyroid glands at the back of the neck. Once the diseased parathyroid glands are located, Dr Heyns will remove them.
In cases where all four parathyroid glands are to be removed, part of one is transplanted into the front of your neck next to the thyroid gland or into the forearm. This helps ensure your body's calcium level stays at a healthy level, not too low.
After surgery you can expect some mild pain near the incisions but painkillers will be prescribed to ease your discomfort. You will need to stay in the hospital for observation for the next day or two, during which time your calcium levels will be monitored closely. You can expect to be back to your normal routine within the next week or two. As a precaution, your blood calcium and PTH levels will be monitored for the next 6 months.