There are four parathyroid glands in the neck, usually located behind the thyroid. Each parathyroid gland is approximately the size of a grain of rice. They work like thermostats for your calcium levels, pumping or restricting the parathyroid hormone based on too little or too much calcium in your blood. It’s critical your parathyroid glands keep the correct levels of calcium in your bloodstream, as each cell uses calcium to work correctly. If there is too much parathyroid hormone in your system, it is called hyperparathyroidism. There are a few different causes of hyperparathyroidism and your doctors will have to do tests to determine the cause.
These tests include blood tests, urine tests and radiology tests such as ultrasound, CT (computed tomography) scans, or nuclear medicine tests to determine if you have hyperparathyroidism. They may also need to evaluate the strength of your bones with a DEXA scan.
If the workup shows there is an overactive parathyroid gland(s), this is typically a benign condition, not cancer, but can cause many symptoms and health risks. When one or more of the glands generates too much of the hormone it can cause an elevated calcium level and you can also have symptoms such as decreased bone density (osteoporosis), which can lead to fractures. High calcium can also cause you to have kidney stones, digestive issues, and sometimes feelings of fatigue and mental fogginess.
Why Nebraska Medicine for Parathyroid Care?
A Team Approach to Parathyroid Care
At Nebraska Medicine, we have a team approach to parathyroid care. We have multiple board-certified endocrinologists who will help determine the cause of the hyperparathyroidism. Our endocrinologists work closely with our surgeons in order to coordinate care for each patient. Our endocrinologists can see patients at multiple locations including the Diabetes and Endocrine Clinic at Nebraska Medical Center, The Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, the Cancer Center at Village Point Health Center and Bellevue Medical Center.
Parathyroid Surgeons at Nebraska Medicine
Get the latest care from some of the most experienced parathyroid surgeons in Nebraska. Surgical removal of the one or more malfunctioning parathyroid glands – or a parathyroidectomy – is the only known cure, and success rates by an experienced endocrine surgeon are more than 95 percent. In addition, experienced parathyroid surgeons have fewer complications.
Therefore, it’s critical to have your surgery performed by a surgeon who is an expert in taking out parathyroids. We have an endocrine surgeon: Abbey Fingeret, MD who has specialty training in endocrine surgery. She completed her fellowship at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, performing more than 500 thyroid and parathyroid operations. Dr. Fingeret also finished a three-month advanced robotic endocrine surgery fellowship in South Korea. She performs more than 300 thyroid and parathyroid operations per year. Our team also includes Zafar Sayed, MD, a head and neck surgeon with expertise in treating both benign and malignant conditions of the thyroid and parathyroids. Dr. Sayed completed his fellowship training at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, New York.
One Short Surgery, Along with a Tiny Incision
Surgery to remove a parathyroid gland involves a small, less than one-inch incision in the lower portion of the neck. The procedure is typically done under general anesthesia and takes less than an hour. Patients suffer from a sore neck for a few days. Most are back to work within a week. For select, otherwise healthy patients who prefer to have surgery without a scar in the neck, a robotic-assisted approach can be performed with an incision under the arm.
If you’re coming in from out of town, we can organize multiple appointments with both endocrinology and surgery the same day if needed as well as labs and imaging. Locations for multidisciplinary care include Buffett Cancer Center and Village Point Cancer Center. The parathyroid multidisciplinary team includes endocrinology, surgery, radiology, and pathology also meets weekly to discuss cases and facilitate decision making.
Deep Expertise Treating All Aspects of the Endocrine System
We offer a deep bench of expertise. At Nebraska Medicine, we treat all thyroid and endocrine-related issues, thanks to teams of doctors who focus on thyroid nodules and cancers, endocrine tumors, and overall endocrine care. If you’re coming in from out of town, we plan to package your appointments with different team members on the same day or set of days, to minimize travel and hotel time.