Thirty-three patients underwent median sternotomy at reoperation for persistent or recurrent hyperparathyroidism. Radiographic studies correctly localized abnormal tissue to the mediastinum in 21 patients and surgery was successful in 19 of them. In the 12 patients without preoperative localization, surgery was successful in 9. Twenty-six of 29 patients with a diagnosis of parathyroid adenoma had successful surgery, while only 2 of 4 patients with hyperplasia had successful procedures. In 10 patients the median sternotomy proved unnecessary since the parathyroid abnormality was located at a site reachable through the cervical incision. Abnormal parathyroid glands were found in the thymus (21), posterior to the thymus along the arch (6), within the thyroid (4), and at other ectopic locations. Abnormal parathyroid glands found within the thymus were often smaller than 1 cm in diameter and were detected by the pathologist after dissecting the entire thymus, indicating the need for total thymectomy. The complication rate was 12%, and the mortality rate was 6%.
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