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What is a parathyroidectomy?

The thyroid is responsible for hormones that control the metabolism and heart rate, behind it are parathyroid glands which control the calcium level in your blood. A parathyroidectomy is an operation in which diseased parathyroid glands or parathyroid tumours are removed. .

How is a parathyroidectomy done?

Once under general anaesthesia, Dr. Noorbhai will either do the surgery endoscopically or use traditional open surgery. You will be given a small dose of radioactive tracer before surgery to highlight the glands.

Endoscopically, small puncture-like incisions are made in the throat to insert a thin tube with a camera. Small surgical instruments will be inserted in the same way and will be used to remove the infected glands or the tumour on the parathyroid. Finally, your surgeon will close the puncture-like incisions with absorbable stitches or surgical staples.

Open surgery will require a small incision to be made near the collarbone. The muscles are separated to gain access to the thyroid. The diseased parathyroid glands or tumour is then removed. The incision is then closed with absorbable stitches or surgical staples.

A blood test will also be done to test whether the tumour or glands are cancerous.

Why would a parathyroidectomy be done?

When these glands are overactive, it causes levels of calcium in the blood that are too high, causing hyperparathyroidism. A thyroidectomy is done to remove a parathyroid tumour or diseased parathyroid glands.

How long will I be in hospital?

Most parathyroidectomy patients spend one night in hospital after surgery, and they are able to go home. How soon you will be discharged from hospital depends on whether you are able to drink liquids when waking up, how much pain you have and whether you have someone to look after you at home.

What will happen after my parathyroidectomy?

Following surgery you may experience the following:

  • Neck pain.
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing.
  • Sore and hoarse voice.
  • Red skin around your wounds.

All these symptoms are normal and are nothing to be concerned about; your voice should return to normal in a few days. Re-consult if you have an unusually high temperature, chills, vomiting, swelling around the incisions, bleeding or oozing from the wound, you are experiencing excessive pain, or you cannot talk as emergency care may be needed. Approximately 3 weeks after your operation you will be seen by your surgeon to check your wounds.

How soon after the surgery can I resume normal activities?

You will be able to resume normal activities soon after your surgery; however, it is important to start slowly. If you experience pain during a certain activities, stop that activity. You may not do any heavy lifting or vigorous physical activity for at least 10 – 14 days after surgery.

What are the potential risks and complications of a parathyroidectomy?

The risk of complications during surgery is very low; however, there are risks involved in any surgery, and the following complications can occur:

  • Infection of the wound or internal infection.
  • Airway obstruction caused by bleeding.
  • Bleeding.
  • Low blood calcium levels.
  • Permanent hoarse voice to nerve damage.
  • Risks from general anaesthetic.
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