Background: The success rate for bilateral exploration in patients with primary hyperparathyroidism approaches 95%. Multiglandular parathyroid hyperplasia accounts for approximately 10% to 30% of primary hyperparathyroidism. The incidence of recurrent or persistent hyperparathyroidism is highest in familial forms of the disease, in which multiglandular disease is more common; this may be due to asymmetric enlargement of parathyroid glands. Because of improvements in tumor-imaging capability, some surgeons are now advocating unilateral exploration for primary hyperparathyroidism, but there is limited experience concerning how often these imaging methods fail. Study Design: The outcomes of 7 patients who had sporadic primary hyperparathyroidism with multigland hyperplasia were reviewed. We gathered demographic data and laboratory values and reviewed radiologic tests, surgical findings, pathologic findings, and postoperative followup. Results: All patients underwent preoperative localization with ultrasonography and technetium/sestamibi scans. The sensitivity of these two tests for the dominantly enlarged gland was 100% for both, but dropped to 0% and 5%, respectively, for all other enlarged glands. The sensitivity of CT and MRI for the dominant tumor was 67% (2 of 3) and 50% (1 of 2), respectively. Six of 7 patients underwent subtotal (3 1/2 gland) parathyroidectomy. The mean volume of all glands was 1.51 ± 5.89 cm3 compared with a mean of 5.66 ± 11.4 cm3 for all dominant glands and 0.123 ± 0.1 cm3 for all nondominant hyperplastic glands. There was a large amount of variability between the volumes of dominant and other glands as demonstrated by large SDs from the mean. Conclusions: There is a marked heterogeneity in gland size in patients with sporadic multigland hyperplasia, which is similar to that found in multiple endocrine neoplasia type I. This heterogeneity may result in failure to recognize multigland disease if a unilateral neck exploration is performed. Intraoperative parathyroid hormone assay may prove to be an important adjunct in this population of patients who have unsuspected multigland disease.
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