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This page will give you information about a parathyroidectomy. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.

What are the parathyroid glands?

The parathyroid glands control the balance of calcium in your blood by making parathyroid hormone (PTH).

Most people have four parathyroid glands, which are in your neck usually behind the thyroid gland. One or more of your parathyroid glands has become overactive, causing an increase in the level of calcium in your blood.

The most common symptom is bone pain.

What are the benefits of surgery?

Your symptoms should improve. You should have less risk of permanent damage to your bones, kidneys or heart.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

Sometimes you can have medication if the calcium level is not too high or if surgery would be too dangerous because of other medical problems you may have.

What does the operation involve?

Illustration showing a parathyroidectomy.
A parathyroidectomy.

The operation is usually performed under a general anaesthetic but sometimes it may be possible to use a local anaesthetic.

The operation usually takes about an hour. Your surgeon will make a cut on your neck in the line of one of your skin creases.

They will remove any enlarged glands.

What complications can happen?

Some complications can be serious and can even cause death.

General complications of any operation

  • pain
  • infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • allergic reaction to the equipment, materials or medication
  • unsightly scarring of your skin
  • blood clot in your leg
  • blood clot in your lung

Specific complications of this operation

  • bleeding
  • change in your voice
  • breathing difficulties
  • drop in calcium levels in your blood
  • failure of the operation

How soon will I recover?

You may be able to go home the same day, however your doctor may recommend you stay in hospital for a little longer.

You should be able to return to work and normal activities after about 2 weeks, depending on how much surgery you need and your type of work.

Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

Most people make a full recovery and can return to normal activities.

A normal gland that was not removed may become overactive many years later and you may need another operation.


Parathyroid glands can become overactive, causing an increase in the level of calcium in your blood. Surgery to remove any affected glands is the only reliable way to prevent long-term problems.


The operation and treatment information on this page is published under license by Healthdirect Australia from EIDO Healthcare Australia and is protected by copyright laws. Other than for your personal, non-commercial use, you may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you. Medical Illustration Copyright ©

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Last reviewed: September 2021

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