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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1998 Aug;83(8):2658-65.

Profile of a clinical practice: Thresholds for surgery and surgical outcomes for patients with primary hyperparathyroidism: a national survey of endocrine surgeons.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21287, USA.


A 1991 NIH Consensus Development Conference statement provided recommendations for the management of patients with asymptomatic and minimally symptomatic primary hyperparathyroidism (primary HPT), but adherence to these guidelines has not been documented. We conducted a cross-sectional survey of North American members of the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons inquiring about surgeon and primary HPT patient characteristics, thresholds for surgery, and clinical outcomes. Multivariate regression was used to assess the relationship of physician characteristics to practice patterns and outcomes. Of 190 surgeons surveyed, 147 (77%) responded; 109 provided complete responses (57%). These surgeons spend 66% of their time in patient care and perform an average of 33 (range, 1-130) parathyroidectomies/yr. More than 72% of primary HPT patients who underwent surgery were asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic. High volume surgeons (>50 cases/yr) had significantly lower thresholds for surgery with respect to abnormalities in preoperative creatinine clearance, bone densitometry changes, and levels of intact PTH and urinary calcium compared to their low volume colleagues (1-15 cases/yr). Overall reported surgical cure rates were 95.2% after primary operation and 82.7% after reoperation. Compared to high volume surgeons, low volume endocrine surgeons had significantly higher complication rates after primary operation (1.9% vs. 1.0% respectively; P < 0.01) and reoperation (3.8% vs. 1.5%; P < 0.001) as well as higher in-hospital mortality rates (1.0% vs. 0.04%; P < 0.05). Endocrine surgeons operate on a large number of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic primary HPT patients. Even among a group of highly experienced surgeons who typically see patients after referral from endocrinologists, clinical outcomes and criteria for surgery vary widely and appear to be associated with surgeon experience. Their criteria for surgery diverge from NIH guidelines. These results implore the endocrine community to examine the evidential basis for decisions made in the management of primary HPT.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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