April 2002 Newsletter: The function of the parathyroid glands

halsted1

The first description of the role of the parathyroidas and their importance in thyroid surgery came from william halsted in 1907. He wrote: "with our present knowledge, scant as it is, of the function of the parathyroid bodies comes not only the recognition of the necessity for their preservation but more frequent occasion for operations which imperil the vitality of these little life sustaining organs. While tetany was believed to be due to thyroid privation the surgeon feared to operate upon both lateral lobes of the thyroid having learned that the death rate from total excision of this organ was very great, and that tetany, the chief cause of this mortality, might follow … only now that the function of the thyroid gland and the parathyroid glandules may no longer be so confounded, are we in a position to determine the amount of each of these organs likely to be necessary in a given case … and even before this has been more definitely determined surgeons are justified in proceeding with greater intrepidity in operation involving sacrifice of the thyroid. In place of the unilateral operation a bilateral operation might be substituted in some cases".

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