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Parathyroid Scan

  • A Parathyroid Scan looks for the presence of Parathyroid Adenomas.
  • A parathyroid scan is used to detect any abnormalities within the parathyroid glands.
  • Parathyroid glands are located behind the thyroid gland in your neck, and they regulate the amount of calcium in your body.
  • Parathyroid four-dimensional computed tomography (4DCT) is a technique that uses sophisticated x-ray technology to locate the parathyroid glands in the neck. CT scanning is fast, painless, noninvasive and accurate. Parathyroid 4DCT is a more specialized CT scan with greater ability to locate diseased glands. This may lead to better treatment results.

Frequently Asked Questions

A parathyroid scan uses a radioactive compound which gives off gamma rays, called a radiotracer, to diagnose and localize parathyroid adenoma. You will be given a small dose of radiotracer through an intravenous (IV). A gamma camera is used to detect the rays and produces images of parathyroid tissue.
The test takes about 30 minutes. You may be asked to wait until the radiologist has reviewed the information. The radiologist may want to do more ultrasound views of your neck.
A parathyroid scan (also called a sestamibi scan) is a nuclear medicine imaging test that uses a radioactive substance and a special camera to take pictures of the parathyroid glands. It is mainly used to check for hyperparathyroidism and any parathyroid tumours.
Parathyroid glands control the amount of calcium in the blood and within the bones. A Parathyroid scan is for localization of hyperparathyroidism or overactive parathyroid glands.
Parathyroid disease and hyperparathyroidism are associated with weight gain. The worries about gaining weight after parathyroid surgery are understandable but unfounded. It is a myth that parathyroid surgery and removing a parathyroid tumor causes you to gain weight.
Only the overactive parathyroid gland shows up...a very accurate test. The Sestamibi scan will display the hyperactive gland which is causing hyperparathyroidism in about 90 percent (90% sensitivity) of all patients. If the Sestamibi does show the hyperactive gland it is almost always correct (98-100% specificity).
Ultrasound can find about 60% of parathyroid adenomas (if the scan is actually performed by an endocrinologist or surgeon, or a tech that is experienced in parathyroid ultrasound and who has been told that that is what they are looking for!). However, ultrasound only finds the easy to locate, superficial tumors.
Parathyroid Hormone (PTH) Intact Blood Test
Test Results: 1-2 days. May take longer based on weather, holiday or lab delays.
Please note that you should not have anything to eat or drink 2 hours prior to your appointment and 2 hours after you take the capsules. You will return to the department approximately 3 hours later for imaging.
Parathyroid Disease Symptoms
  • A lump in the neck.
  • Difficulty speaking or swallowing.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Sudden increase in blood calcium levels (hypercalcemia)
  • Fatigue, drowsiness.
  • Urinating more than usual, which may cause you to be dehydrated and very thirsty.
  • Bone pain and broken bones.
  • Kidney stones.
When the results of the scans are negative, surgeons often recommend bilateral 4-gland parathyroid exploration to identify affected glands.
There are two main parts to your parathyroid scan:
  • When you arrive in the department you will be given a small injection of a ‘tracer’ into a vein in your arm. This injection has no side effects. You will be placed on the gamma camera’s scanning table and pictures will be acquired immediately. This will take approximately 40 minutes. Once these images are acquired you will be asked to return to the Nuclear Medicine department approximately 3hrs later.
  • On your return to the Nuclear Medicine department you will be asked to lie on the scanning table and more images will be acquired. This will take approximately 30 minutes.
You will not be required to undress for the scan. The scan is performed with the Gamma Camera close to your body but you do not go through a "tunnel".
  • You will need a referral from your doctor.
  • You will need an appointment for this test.
  • You can eat and drink normally before the test.
  • You can take your medications as normal.
  • You will be in the department for up to 1.5hrs for the first part of the test and 50 minutes for the second part of the test.
  • Please bring any previous relevant X-rays or scans to your appointment.