This is a question that is asked by one or two people per day, and it’s a pretty good question. We all have four parathyroid glands and when we get hyperparathyroidism one of the glands (or more than one sometimes) becomes a tumor. Actually in the vast majority of cases, the tumor grows out of the normal parathyroid gland, but in some cases the entire gland is big and there is no normal gland left.
In more than 99% of the cases, the tumor “on” the parathyroid gland cannot be saved and thus the entire gland is removed. Even if we could just remove the tumor and save the “normal” gland part, we wouldn’t want to because this gland has already declared itself as a bad gland and it could grow another tumor.
The simple answer is “yes”
Thus the simple answer is yes, in almost every case, the entire parathyroid gland is removed. God gave you four parathyroid glands and as it turns out, we can life a perfectly normal life with just one-half of one. You came to us with 4 glands, and you left with less than 4.
Exceptions to the rule
The exception to the rule is in people that have had previous parathyroid surgery somewhere else prior to coming to our Center (we do several of these a day!). In almost every case, one or more normal parathyroid glands have already been removed by the previous surgeon when they couldn’t find the tumor. Often, all three normal parathyroid glands have been removed prior to the patient coming to see us. So when we find their tumor (the only tumor they ever had usually), we try very hard to save some of the normal gland attached that that tumor because they have nothing left. Sometimes we can’t save the normal gland and we have to perform a parathyroid transplant and put some of the tumor into a muscle. You don’t want to live with zero parathyroid glands! Yes, this works just fine.