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What is Parathyroidectomy?

Parathyroidectomy is a surgical procedure used to correct hyperparathyroidism and parathyroid tumors. Parathyroidectomy is one of a few treatments for parathyroid conditions. Alcohol or heat treatment and dietary changes are conservative treatments for select cases of hyperparathyroidism. Ultrasound-guided ethanol ablation is another treatment for removing parathyroid tumors, but also requires general anesthesia. Because surgery is considered the most invasive procedure for parathyroid conditions, conservative treatments may be utilized first. If alcohol or heat treatments have been unsuccessful, surgery is usually recommended.

Parathyroidectomy Procedure in Cats

  1. Oral medications will be administered for a few weeks prior to surgery if the cat is in an unstable condition.
  2. The cat will not be allowed to eat for up to 24 hours prior to surgery.
  3. The cat will first be anesthetized.
  4. The surgeon will make the initial incision into the side of the neck to gain access to the parathyroid gland.
  5. If parathyroidectomy is required due to parathyroid tumors, the surgeon will evaluate the parathyroid glands to identify and locate tumors.
  6. The surgeon will take care to remove the affected parathyroid gland(s) with a scalpel or surgical scissors.
  7. The cat may be hospitalized so that the surgeon can monitor its calcium levels.

Efficacy of Parathyroidectomy in Cats

The prognosis may vary depending on the severity of the condition. However, parathyroidectomy is usually very effective in treating parathyroid conditions. Parathyroidectomy can be curative for many cases. Other treatments for hyperparathyroidism may damage surrounding glands or organs; surgery has the greatest chance of ensuring such damage does not occur. Complications are possible following surgery, but are usually temporary and easy to correct. 

Parathyroidectomy Recovery in Cats

Cats are usually given analgesics to manage pain following surgery. Cats may also be required to take calcium and/or vitamin D supplements. Owners should ensure cats that have undergone parathyroidectomy get plenty of rest and do not engage in activity. Owners should also check the surgery site each day to make sure no swelling, bleeding, or pus has developed. Veterinarians will schedule a follow-up appointment one week following surgery to monitor healing and ensure no complications have arisen.

Cost of Parathyroidectomy in Cats

The cost of parathyroidectomy may vary depending on additional costs incurred, including medications and supportive care. On average, the cost of parathyroidectomy ranges from $500 to $1,500.

Cat Parathyroidectomy Considerations

Although most parathyroidectomies are successful and do not present complications, postoperative complications are possible. Surgery may cause the remaining parathyroid glands to malfunction due to the absence of one or more of the parathyroid gland(s). This issue usually resolves by itself within a few days following surgery. The most common complication is a low calcium level in the blood, although this is more common in cats that have high calcium levels before surgery. Signs of a low calcium level include: 

  • Rubbing of the face 
  • Pupil dilation 
  • Muscle twitches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy and weakness

Owners should consult their veterinarian immediately if they notice any of these signs following surgery. Low calcium levels can be fatal if left untreated. Medication can correct low calcium levels.

Parathyroidectomy Prevention in Cats

Primary hyperparathyroidism is difficult to prevent because it is usually a spontaneous condition. Secondary hyperparathyroidism may be prevented by ensuring cats are fed a complete diet.