When should I get new DEXA Scan?
Because hyperparathyroidism takes calcium out of the bones, most of the patients at our Parathyroid Center have lower bone density than their peers. Some of you will have osteopenia, while others will have osteoporosis or even severe osteoporosis (if you have had a parathyroid tumor for 8 years or more).
Osteoporosis almost always gets better
Several large medical studies have shown that the bones of parathyroid patients get better in almost all cases after successful parathyroid surgery, at an average rate of about 8% per year increase in bone density. Thus almost everybody will get better bones in the years following parathyroid surgery even though they are getting older.
Because the process of gaining bone density is slow, we recommend that you wait 1 to 1.5 years after parathyroid surgery to check your bone density (a DEXA scan).
Never had a bone-density scan (DEXA scan)?
If you had parathyroid surgery and didn’t have a DEXA scan within the previous 2 years, then you should probably get one within a few weeks of the operation so we can have a baseline of how good or bad your bones are. That includes people who never had a scan.
If the tumor is out, why do I need a DEXA scan?
Well, it’s pretty simple. By the time somebody has figured out that you have a parathyroid problem (yes, we know that sometimes it is YOU that figures it out!), you have had a parathyroid problem for years. Just because you realized your calcium was high last year doesn’t mean you’ve only had a parathyroid problem for 1 year. The average patient we operate on has had a parathyroid problem for over 5 years before people figure it out!
Thus the parathyroid tumor has been taking calcium out of your bones for years. It’s gonna take years to put it back in. We put all of our patients on calcium after their parathyroid operation. And we tell them to take it for years. Well that is pretty open-ended because how long the patient needs supplemental calcium is dependent upon the status of their bones.
If you are a 40 year old man and your bones are good, then you need calcium for about 6 months after the operation and that’s it. If you are a 65 year old post-menopausal female with a T-Score of -3.4 osteoporosis of the spine, then you are likely to be on calcium supplements for the rest of your life. Your bones are worse than your peers because you had a parathyroid tumor.