Lessons Learned From a Single-Surgeon Experience of More Than 1700 Parathyroidectomies

David J. Terris, Ahmad Eltelety, Zachary Zimmerman, Luke Edelmayer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To define critical elements that contribute to successful parathyroidectomy based on a high-volume single-surgeon experience and explore learning curve characteristics. Study Design: Systematic analysis of prospectively maintained quality assurance database. Setting: Academic tertiary care endocrine surgery practice. Subjects and Methods: In total, 4737 consecutive patients who underwent thyroid or parathyroid surgery from 2004 to 2020 were identified. Demographic data acquisition was undertaken on a subset of these patients who had initial surgery for primary hyperparathyroidism during the academic years 2005 to 2018. Patients with renal or syndromic hyperparathyroidism and those undergoing reoperative surgery were excluded. Results: From 1710 patients who underwent parathyroid surgery, 1082 met inclusion criteria in order to focus on a homogeneous data set. These patients had a mean age of 60.1 ± 12.5 years and 76.4% were female. The overall cure rate was 98.3%, reflecting a success rate that increased from 95.5% during the first 200 cases to 99.7% over the final 300 cases. The complication rate was 1.7%. Over 2 decades, the patient phenotype evolved toward milder disease and smaller adenomas. A learning curve of 200 cases was required to become a proficient parathyroid surgeon; to achieve exceptional results required several hundred additional cases. Parathyroid surgery represents a higher proportion of an endocrine surgery practice than previously (54.0% in 2019 compared with 25.5% in 2004). Conclusion: A focused practice dedicated to endocrine surgery yields surgical volumes exceeding 500 cases annually. There has been a steady shift toward parathyroid surgery. A lengthy learning curve can be shortened by pursuit of several specific strategies that are outlined in detail.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)729-736
Number of pages8
JournalOtolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (United States)
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • endocrine surgery
  • imaging
  • parathyroid hormone level
  • parathyroidectomy
  • surgical volumes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


Dive into the research topics of 'Lessons Learned From a Single-Surgeon Experience of More Than 1700 Parathyroidectomies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this