Management of patients with asymptomatic primary hyperparathyroidism (HPT) remains controversial despite a National Institutes of Health consensus statement on this issue. As part of the above statement, a randomized clinical trial was recommended since none exist to address this issue.


Informed consent was obtained from 53 asymptomatic patients with confirmed primary HPT who agreed to participate in this randomized clinical trial of parathyroidectomy versus observation. Upon entry to the study and 24 months later the patients completed the SF-36 health survey which is an instrument that measures nine different levels of function. Scores were tabulated and the difference over 24 months between operated and non-operated patients was compared with Student's t test.


Fifty-three patients (42 women and 11 men) with asymptomatic, mild primary HPT (serum calcium 10·1–11·5 mg dl−1) who agreed to participate were randomized into either a surgical group or an observation group. Mean serum calcium for these patients was 10·3 mg dl−1. The only demographic difference between the groups was age; the operated group was older (66·7 versus 62·6 years; P < 0·03). Scores on three of the nine domains (health perception, emotional problems and social functioning) on the SF-36 were significantly different (P < 0·05), all favouring the operated group.


Improved function, as measured by the SF-36 health assessment tool, is seen after parathyroidectomy compared with non-operated patients. This work supports surgical management of mild primary HPT at the time of diagnosis since many patients have reversible non-classical symptoms of the disease. © 2000 British Journal of Surgery Society Ltd