Asymptomatic hyperparathyroidism—need for multicentre studies

Radu Mihai, John A H Wass, Gregory P Sadler
Clinical Endocrinology 2008, 68 (2): 155-64
Long-term follow-up is initially considered appropriate for the majority of patients with primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) having small increases in calcium levels (< 2.8 mmol/l) and lacking the 'classical' symptoms of PHPT. The supportive reasoning is that many such patients never progress to more severe biochemical or clinical disease. There are, however, arguments in favour of early surgical treatment of such patients but adequately powered studies have not been carried out in this subgroup of patients to asses the impact of PHPT on their quality of life, cardiovascular risk and bone density. Progressive loss in bone mineral density and an increased risk of bone fracture become increasingly significant in an ageing population. Left ventricular hypertrophy, an increased risk of arrhythmia and/or myocardial infarction in addition to changes in atherogenic lipid profile and impaired glucose tolerance may translate into an increased risk of premature death in this group of patients. Changes in the quality of life identified using standardized questionnaires are sometimes recognized by patients only in retrospect (i.e. after resolution of symptoms following successful parathyroidectomy). In addition, many series fail to assess and record accurately such symptoms. Multicentre cohort studies of patients with asymptomatic PHPT randomized to immediate or delayed surgical treatment could address some of the debated issues highlighted in this review. Until such studies are set up, most surgeons would consider that parathyroid surgery should represent the first choice of treatment for all patients, but many physicians would favour a long-term follow-up. Nevertheless, the threshold for referral for surgical treatment has been lowered since the introduction of scan-directed minimally invasive parathyroidectomy, which enables the experienced parathyroid surgeon to successfully treat patients with PHPT with a minimum of complications as a day-case operation. In the context of improved surgical treatment, we need more data on the benefits or otherwise in so-called asymptomatic patients with a thorough assessment of their bone quality, cardiovascular risk and quality of life.

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