Parathyroidectomy in the elderly: Do the benefits outweigh the risks?

Academic Article


  • Although the incidence of hyperparathyroidism (HPT) in the elderly exceeds 1.5%, limited resources and co-morbidity inhibit referral for parathyroidectomy. To determine the risks and benefits of surgery, we examined the outcomes of elderly patients who underwent exploration for primary HPT. Data from 211 consecutive patients who underwent parathyroidectomy by one surgeon at the Johns Hopkins Hospital between August 1990 and May 1996 were recorded prospectively. Of these patients, 184 had primary HPT. Demographic and outcome data of elderly patients (> 70 years of age) (n = 36) were compared to those from younger patients (< 70 years of age) (n = 148). Preoperative symptoms of mental impairment, bone disease, and fatigue were more common in elderly patients (p < 0.05), and nephrolithiasis was more frequent in younger patients (p < 0.025). Elderly patients presented with more advanced disease, manifested by higher preoperative parathyroid hormone levels (301.9 ± 63.3 vs. 169.2 ± 14.3 pg/ml, p < 0.05). The cure rate (94.4%), morbidity (5.5%), and mortality (0%) in the elderly were indistinguishable from those of their younger cohorts (98%, 1.4%, and 0%, respectively). In conclusion, the more advanced disease seen in the elderly suggests that they are referred for surgery with a higher threshold than younger patients. Although several series of parathyroidectomy in elderly patients have reported high morbidity rates, significant mortality, and long length of stay (LOS), we found that parathyroidectomy in these patients can be performed with high cures, low morbidity, no mortality, short LOS, and high patient satisfaction. These data suggest that the benefits of surgery outweigh its risks and argue for a lower threshold for referral of elderly patients with primary HPT for surgical treatment.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Chen H; Parkerson S; Udelsman R
  • Start Page

  • 531
  • End Page

  • 536
  • Volume

  • 22
  • Issue

  • 6