Introduction: Parathyroid scintigraphy (PS) may be used to localize hyperactive parathyroid glands preoperatively. Performance of PS in the setting of secondary and tertiary hyperparathyroidism (HPT) is not well quantified. The performance of PS in secondary/tertiary HPT versus primary HPT may reflect physiologic as well as radiopharmaceutical kinetic differences between multigland hyperplasia versus adenoma. The aim of this study was to review the performance of PS in secondary/tertiary HPT with a comparison to that for primary HPT. Moreover, we evaluated (1) the sensitivity of PS in detecting enlarged glands, and (2) PS detectability as a function of gland weight. Methods: We performed a retrospective review of the Mayo Clinic database from 2000 to 2004. We identified 40 patients with secondary or tertiary HPT as well as a matched control group of 40 patients with primary HPT who had had preoperative PS and underwent parathyroid surgery. Results: Parathyroid scintigraphy correctly localized all enlarged glands in 88% of patients in the primary HPT group. PS correctly identified both the number and locations of all hyperplastic glands in only 28% of the secondary/tertiary HPT patients. PS failed to identify one enlarged gland in 23% of the patients and two or more enlarged glands in 40% of the patients. PS correctly detects the largest gland in 88% of the patients with secondary and tertiary HPT. The mean gland weight detectable by PS was 612 ± 120 mg for primary HPT. In secondary/tertiary HPT, glands detected by PS had a mean weight of 950 ± 109 mg, whereas the mean weight was 276 ± 34 mg for undetected glands (P < 0.002). Conclusions: Parathyroid scintigraphy is a sensitive study for localizing parathyroid glands preoperatively in primary HPT patients. Its sensitivity is low in secondary and tertiary HPT patients. Thus PS has limited value as a preoperative localization study in secondary/tertiary HPT patients.
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