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American Family Children's Hospital

Parathyroid Surgery

UW Health endocrine surgeons in Madison, Wisconsin specialize in treating conditions of the parathyroid gland.


From Our Surgeons: About Parathyroid Surgery



Parathyroid Surgery


Parathyroid surgery has traditionally been performed using a bilateral neck exploration. This technique has been proven over time to be very safe and effective when performed by an experienced surgeon. This operation involves identifying all four parathyroid glands but removing only those that are abnormal.


Since 80-85 percent of patients with primary hyperparathyroidism have only one gland that is abnormal, many surgeons have shifted to doing a more limited or focused exploration in patients thought to have a high likelihood of having a single abnormal gland.


At UW Health, our endocrine surgeons can perform either a focused or bi-lateral exploration, all through the same tiny incision.


Types of Parathyroid Surgery

Parathyroid Cancer and Cryopreservation


Most enlarged parathyroid glands are benign (non-cancerous) growths. In less than 1 percent of cases the abnormal parathyroid gland is actually a cancer. While occasionally a biopsy may be performed in the operating room to confirm the presence of cancer, this is rarely done. In most cases, the diagnosis of cancer is based on the outside appearance of the tumor, not its microscopic findings. When parathyroid tissue is removed during surgery it is usually sent to the pathologist for a diagnosis.


Occasionally your surgeon may decide to cryopreserve your parathyroid glands instead of sending them to the pathologist for a diagnosis. Cryopreservation involves freezing the tissue in liquid nitrogen. These cryopreserved glands can then be defrosted in the future and autotransplanted if needed.