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A parathyroid adenoma is a benign tumor of the parathyroid gland. It generally causes hyperparathyroidism; there are very few reports of parathyroid adenomas that were not associated with hyperparathyroidism.
A human being usually has four parathyroid glands located on the back surface of the thyroid in the neck. The parathyroids secrete parathyroid hormone (PTH), which increases the concentration of calcium in the blood by inducing the bones to release calcium into the blood and the kidneys to reabsorb it from the urine into the blood. When a parathyroid adenoma causes hyperparathyroidism, more parathyroid hormone is secreted, causing the calcium concentration of the blood to rise, resulting in hypercalcemia.
Signs and symptoms
Oftentimes parathyroid adenoma is not diagnosed until found on standard blood-tests that reveal high calcium content in the blood, it can appear in urine tests as well. Patients may not be experiencing any noticeable symptoms but could be producing excessive amounts of calcium and eventually experience problems later in life if untreated. However, patients can experience common symptoms that can range from joint, muscle, and abdominal pain to slight discomfort. Additionally patients might be experiencing feelings of depression due to the hormonal imbalance. Constipation and exhaustion can also be experienced as a result of the irregularity in the bloodstream. There is also a potential that the kidneys could be damaged with the excess of calcium in the blood.
Hyperparathyroidism is confirmed by blood tests such as calcium and PTH levels. A specific test for parathyroid adenoma is sestamibi parathyroid scintigraphy, the sestamibi scan. This nuclear imaging technique reveals the presence and location of pathological parathyroid tissue.
Surgery is the only cure for parathyroid adenomas. It is successful about 95% of the time. Parathyroidectomy is the removal of the affected gland(s). The standard of treatment of primary hyperparathyroidism was formerly a surgical technique called bilateral neck exploration, in which the neck was opened on both sides, the parathyroids were identified, and the affected tissue was removed. By the 1980s, unilateral exploration became more common. Parathyroidectomy can now be performed in a minimally invasive fashion, mainly because imaging techniques can pinpoint the location of the tissue. Minimally invasive techniques include smaller open procedures, radio-guided and video-assisted procedures, and totally endoscopic surgery.
Before surgery is attempted, the affected glandular tissue must be located. Though the parathyroid glands are usually located on the back of the thyroid, their position is variable. Some people have one or more parathyroid glands elsewhere in the neck anatomy or in the chest. About 10% of parathyroid adenomas are ectopic, located not along the back of the thyroid but elsewhere in the body, sometimes in the mediastinum of the chest. This can make them difficult to locate, so various imaging techniques are used, such as the sestamibi scan, single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), ultrasound, MRI, and CT scans.
Micrographs of parathyroid adenoma
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