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Characteristics, management and outcome of primary hyperparathyroidism in South Africa: a single-centre experience


Introduction Primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) is a common endocrine disorder characterised by hypercalcaemia and elevated parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels. However, it remains a relatively underdiagnosed disease in the developing world primarily due to a lack of routine blood chemistry screening. The aim of this analysis was to evaluate the characteristics, management and outcome of patients with PHPT at a tertiary referral clinic in South Africa.

Methods A retrospective analysis was undertaken on all patients with a diagnosis of PHPT attending the endocrinology clinic at a tertiary referral hospital in Durban, South Africa, between January 2003 and June 2009. Information on clinical presentation, past medical history, biochemistry, radiology, histology and surgical notes were recorded. Patients with multiple endocrine neoplasia were excluded.

Results A total of 28 case records of PHPT were reviewed. The mean age at presentation was 60±14.5 years with a female preponderance (78.6%). The mode of presentation included referral for investigation of an abnormal serum calcium (n: 23), referral from urologist with nephrolithiasis (n: 3) and for investigation of bone disease (n: 2). Symptomatic disease was found in 26 patients (92.9%), including bone pain (75%), fatigue (46.4%) and abdominal pain (32.1%). Mean serum calcium was 3.0+0.39 (normal 2.08–2.65) mmol/L, serum intact PTH 34.7±41.5 (normal 1.2–8.5) pmol/L and serum alkaline phosphatase 206.3±340.2 (normal 53–141) mIU/L. Sestamibi scan was performed on 24 patients and an adenoma was identified in 83.3%. Of the 19 (68%) patients who had parathyroidectomy, an adenoma was identified as the cause in all cases where histology was available (n:18). Surgery was successful in 18 patients with only one patient requiring repeat parathyroidectomy for persistent hypercalcaemia. Postoperative hypocalcaemia developed in eight patients (42.1%) including four patients who required intravenous calcium infusion for symptomatic hypocalcaemia.

Conclusions PHPT is a treatable disorder with good surgical success. Asymptomatic disease was uncommon in this group of patients. This is compatible with the symptomatic pattern of presentation reported in other developing countries.

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