About the Parathyroid Gland
The parathyroid glands are small pea shaped and sized glands located behind the much larger thyroid gland in the neck. The glands produce the parathyroid hormone (PTH) which is important in controlling calcium levels in the body. PTH works by controlling the levels of calcium that are absorbed through diet, excreted through the kidneys, and released from bones. The calcium levels in the body are meticulously maintained, which implies the importance of calcium in the body.
Why Calcium Levels are Important in the Body
When people hear about calcium levels in the body, they think of calcium in bone density or the importance of calcium in maintaining the strength of tooth enamel. What most people don’t know is the importance of calcium in everyday functions of the body. Calcium is an important component of nerve signaling, cell wall structure, the transportation of ions across cells walls, heartbeat regulation, and muscle contraction. As a result, excess levels of calcium may negatively impact many important systems, gravely affecting an individual’s health.
Symptoms of Parathyroid Adenoma
The direct result of an adenoma on a parathyroid gland is an increase in the amount of PTH excretion. This leads to hypercalcaemia or an increase in serum calcium levels. Most afflicted individuals are often symptomless with the condition only being detected when they undergo tests for a different condition. A person afflicted by this condition may have bones that fracture easily, may experience confusion, may develop kidney stones, or experience muscle pain and nausea. These are all functions and systems in the body that are affected by calcium levels. The good news is that these adenomas are mostly benign and are for the most part are limited to one of the four parathyroid glands. This peculiarity is what makes the condition treatable.
Most people undergo surgery to remove the adenoma. Surgical options have a 90 to 95 percent cure rate of the associated symptoms. Most of the surgical procedures are minimally invasive and are performed through a small incision. There are some complications associated with the surgery; these include temporary or permanent hypocalcaemia and injury to the laryngeal nerve. However, the reported incidence of these complications is extremely rare.
Pregnant Women and Parathyroid Adenoma Surgery
In a study conducted on pregnant women, it was determined that the outcome of parathyroid gland surgery performed on pregnant women had worse clinical and economical outcomes when compared to a cohort of non-pregnant women. The results, published in the Archives of Surgery concluded that pregnant women should carefully weigh their options before proceeding with parathyroid surgery.
- Parathyroid Adenoma: eMedicine Radiology
- SreyRam Kuy; Sanziana A. Roman; Rani Desai; Julie Ann Sosa. “Outcomes Following Thyroid and Parathyroid Surgery in Pregnant Women." Arch Surg., 2009;144(5):399-406 Abstract
- S. Harris “Thyroid and parathyroid surgical complications" The American Journal of Surgery, Volume 163, Issue 5, Pages 476-478