An incision is made in the neck, usually just under the Adam's apple. The 4 parathyroid glands are located and the abnormal parathyroid glands are removed. The incision is then closed.
In a partial parathyroidectomy, 1 to 3 of the glands are removed, leaving one to help prevent the body from producing too little parathyroid hormone (PTH). This condition is called hypoparathyroidism.
In a total parathyroidectomy, all 4 glands are removed. In some cases, the surgeon will implant parathyroid tissue in the forearm muscle of the patient to provide residual parathyroid function.
Review Date 9/3/2018
Updated by: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, general surgery practice specializing in breast cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.