Open Access Open Badges Research article

Intraoperative parathyroid hormone assay during focused parathyroidectomy: the importance of 20 minutes measurement

Pietro Giorgio Calò1*, Giuseppe Pisano1, Giulia Loi1, Fabio Medas1, Lucia Barca2, Matteo Atzeni1 and Angelo Nicolosi1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Surgical Sciences, University of Cagliari, Cagliari, Italy

2 School of Specialty in Clinical Pathology, University of Cagliari, Cagliari, Italy

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Surgery 2013, 13:36  doi:10.1186/1471-2482-13-36

Published: 18 September 2013



Parathyroid hormone (PTH) monitoring during the surgical procedure can confirm the removal of all hyperfunctioning parathyroid tissue, as the half-life of PTH is approximately 5 min. The commonly applied Irvin criterion is reported to correctly predict post-operative calcium levels in 96-98% of patients. However, the PTH baseline reference concentration is markedly influenced by surgical manipulations during preparation of the affected glands, interindividual variability of the PTH half-life and modifications in the physiological state of the patient during surgery. The aim of this study was to evaluate the possible impact of the measurement of intraoperative PTH 20 minutes after surgery.


Between 2003 and 2012, 188 patients underwent a focused parathyroidectomy associated to rapid intraoperative PTH assay monitoring. Blood samples were collected: 1) at pre-incision time, 2) at 10 min after gland excision and 3) at 20 min after excision, if a sufficient reduction of PTH value was not observed. On the bases of the Irvin criterion, an intra-operative PTH drop>50% from the highest either pre-incision or pre-excision level after parathyroid excision was considered a surgical success.


A >50% decrease of PTH after gland excision compared to the highest pre-excision value occurred in 156/188 patients (83%) within 10 min and in further 12/188 after 20 minutes (6.4%). In the remaining 20 patients (10.6%) values of PTH remained substantially unchanged or decreased less than 50% and for this reason bilateral neck exploration was performed. An additional pathologic parathyroid was removed in 9 cases, a third in one. In the other 10 cases further neck exploration by a standard cervical approach was negative and in four of these persistent postoperative hypercalcemia was demonstrated. The overall operative success was 97.3%. Intraoperative PTH monitoring was accurate in predicting operative success or failure in 96.3% of patients.


The 20 minutes PTH measurement appears very useful, avoiding unnecessary bilateral exploration and the related risk of complications with only a slight increase of the duration of surgery and of the costs. PTH values decreasing appeared to be influenced by surgical manipulations during minimally invasive parathyroidectomy.

Primary hyperparathyroidism; Parathyroid hormone; Parathyroidectomy; Intra-operative PTH