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ANZ J Surg. 2002 Mar;72(3):200-3.

Primary hyperparathyroidism: referral patterns and outcomes of surgery.

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Department of General Surgery, North Shore Hospital, Auckland, New Zealand.



Parathyroidectomy has long been established as an effective treatment for primary hyperparathyroidism (HPT).


A 15-year retrospective audit was made by surgeons at North Shore Hospital, Auckland, of 33 patients with primary HPT who had parathyroidectomy.


There were 22 females and 11 males, ranging in age from 18 to 77 years (median 63 years). Initial diagnosis was predominantly by a general practitioner (72%), who invariably referred to a physician. Referral to surgery was made by general physicians (55%), endocrinologists (33%) and geriatricians (6%). Delay between diagnosis and referral for surgery ranged from 8 days to 10 years (median 7 months), and exceeded 2 years in 24% of patients. Twenty-eight (85%) were symptomatic: 13 (39%) had renal symptoms, 13 (39%) had bone disease, 10 (31%) had gastrointestinal complaints, seven (21%) had psychiatric illnesses and six (18%) had fatigue. The high incidence of symptoms was matched by high biochemical values (mean serum calcium level 2.97 mmol/L), and large parathyroid glands (mean weight 2001 mg). Twenty-nine patients (88%) had single adenomas, two (6%) had chief cell hyperplasia and two (6%) had carcinoma. Thirty-one (94%) were cured of their primary HPT.


Parathyroidectomy is a safe and effective treatment for primary HPT but depends upon referral from non-surgical clinicians. A large proportion of patients have long delays before their surgery, and the group selected for surgery is referred with severe disease.

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