Clinical profile of primary hyperparathyroidism in adolescents and young adults

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE

Primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) is an uncommonly diagnosed condition among adolescents and young adults. We review the clinical characteristics of these patients based on our institutional experience.

SUBJECTS

Patients aged 12-28 years treated for PHPT at our institution from 1990 to 1996 were evaluated by a review of medical records and current follow-up data. This consisted of 22 patients (8 M:14F), constituting approximately 3% of all patients operated for PHPT during this period.

MEASUREMENTS

Serum and urinary calcium concentrations, renal function, and serum intact parathyroid hormone (iPTH) levels were measured in all patients. After biochemical confirmation of diagnosis, the patients completed a questionnaire to evaluate the presence of symptoms and/or conditions associated with PHPT. All the patients underwent parathyroidectomy and their tumour characteristics were evaluated. Surgical outcome was determined by measurements of serum calcium and iPTH levels postoperatively and during long-term follow-up.

RESULTS

A third of the patients were diagnosed by routine serum chemistry whereas two-thirds presented with symptoms or conditions associated with hypercalcaemia. Non-specific complaints such as fatigue or exhaustion, and weakness or lethargy constitute the most common findings on questionnaire review. A family history of PHPT was present in only 2 patients. The preoperative peak serum calcium levels ranged from 2.67 to 4.19 mmol/l (norm: 2.10-2.54 mmol/l), with a median of 3.07 mmol/l. Surgical pathologies revealed 59% solitary adenoma, 27% hyperplasia, 9% multiple adenomas and 5% carcinoma. Comparison between the adolescents (aged 12-18 years) and young adults (aged 19-28 years) revealed no differences in the clinical, pathological or laboratory profiles, except for a male predominance in adolescent patients. Fifteen patients had resection of one or more adenomas while 7 underwent subtotal parathyroidectomy. Six patients (27%) were reoperated cases, all received primary treatment elsewhere. All patients with benign PHPT were cured surgically, with a median follow-up of 47 months (range 3-77 months). One reoperated patient developed permanent hypocalcaemia. One patient with carcinoma underwent several operations for recurrence; he is now eucalcaemic despite persistent disease at 80 months from diagnosis.

CONCLUSIONS

We found a high incidence of multiglandular disease and relatively non-specific symptomatology in our adolescent and young adult patients with primary hyperparathyroidism. In view of the heterogeneous clinical expression noted in young patients, one should consider primary hyperparathyroidism in the differential diagnosis of unexplained non-specific complaints, and perform serum calcium estimations more readily in these subjects. Our experience suggests that primary hyperparathyroidism can be a serious disease with significant morbidity if left untreated, whereas parathyroidectomy provides successful results.

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