Parathyroid Surgery: DiagnosticTests

Imaging tests help your doctor determine if you have primary hyperparathyroidism. It also gives your doctor information needed to determine which treatment plan is best for you.

  Man lying on table under gamma camera. Inset shows sestamibi scan.

Man's head and neck with healthcare provider's hand holding ultrasound probe to neck. Inset shows ultrasound image.

Woman lying on CT scan table. Inset shows CT scan.

Medical history and physical exam

During the medical history, be sure to describe any symptoms you have, even if they seem minor. Also mention other medical problems you have or have had in the past. You may be asked about the foods you eat and medications you take. During the physical exam, your doctor will check your head and neck. Other parts of the body may also be examined to rule out other conditions.

Diagnostic tests

Certain tests are done to diagnose primary hyperparathyroidism and to rule out other causes of problems. The risk of related health problems, such as kidney and bone disease, is also looked at. Tests may include:

  • Blood tests. Samples of blood are drawn from a vein. These are checked for high levels of calcium and parathyroid hormone (PTH). The levels of vitamin D, magnesium, alkaline phosphatase, and phosphorus may also be checked.

  • Urine tests. Samples of urine are taken over a 24-hour period. These are checked for high levels of calcium and problems with the kidneys.

  • Bone density study. Scans of the hip, lower back, or forearm are taken. This test measures the amount of calcium in the bones to check bone health.

Imaging tests may be done to help the doctor find the parathyroid glands and see which are enlarged.

  • A sestamibi scan is used to find any enlarged parathyroid glands. The test can take up to 3 to 4 hours. During the test, a safe radioactive fluid is injected into the veins. This fluid helps make enlarged parathyroid glands show up clearly when a special camera is used.

  • An ultrasound can also be used to find enlarged parathyroid glands. During this quick test, harmless sound waves are used to form pictures of the parathyroid glands. The pictures are then viewed on a computer screen.

  • A CT (computed tomography) scan combines X-rays and computer processing technology to form pictures.

  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan uses magnets and radio waves to form pictures. These tests are done less often, but they can also be used to locate enlarged parathyroid glands.


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