• Primary hyperparathyroidism occurs in about 1 in every 700 individuals. We analyzed our experience with 81 patients with persistent or recurrent hyperparathyroidism who were treated at the University of California, San Francisco, and the Veterans Administration Medical Center, San Francisco, from January 1979 through September 1988. In the 89 reoperations performed, the following six reasons or combination of reasons were responsible for the failed initial operation: (1) in 50 patients, there were multiple abnormal glands (30 hyperplastic and 20 second adenoma); (2) in 40 patients, the tumor was located in an ectopic position (22 mediastinal, 9 deep-seated cervical, 7 intrathyroidal, and 2 undescended); (3) in 17 patients, there were supernumerary parathyroid glands; (4) in 12 patients, the abnormal parathyroid glands were found in normal locations and the tumors were missed because of surgeon inexperience; (5) in 4 patients, failure was due to metastatic parathyroid cancer; and (6) in 4 patients, failure was due to errors on frozen section examinations. Preoperative localization studies usually identified the abnormal parathyroid tumor(s) prior to reoperations and were helpful in these patients. Knowledge of the reasons for failed parathyroid operations and the usual and unusual sites where parathyroid tumors are situated as well as a complete exploration should decrease the frequency of failed parathyroid operations. Localization studies are helpful for identifying these often elusive tumors.
(Arch Surg. 1989;124:911-915)