Documented hyperparathyroidism of thirty six years' duration
The fascinating history of the first Memorial Hospital patient who was diagnosed as having hyperparathyroidism is reviewed. The illness presented as a cystic mass in a femur in 1929, which was treated with radiation. When the patient was first seen at Memorial Hospital in 1931, the diagnosis of osteitis fibrosa cystica was made; serum calcium was 14 mg/100 ml. In 1932, 6 years after Mandl performed the first parathyroidectomy ever for osteitis fibrosa cystica, this patient's neck was explored, and a right hemithyroidectomy was done, with removal of two normal parathyroid glands. The parathyroid tumor was finally located and partially removed in 1937 after a second failure at neck exploration in 1936. Correspondence between Dr. Edward D. Churchill at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Dr. Bradley Coley at Memorial Hospital indicated the concern at that time about uncontrollable tetany, which had been fatal in some contemporary cases and which had led to the practice of only partially removing the tumor. Following this, the patient was observed with documented hypercalcemia and chemical evidence of hyperparathyrodism until age 79. The physical and chemical abnormalities over the years up to and including her last exam are presented. The case is important not only from the historical viewpoint, but because it lends a perspective to long-term parathyroid disease, which is becoming less appreciated in this day of the routine serum calcium by SMA-12 screening. The question of partial parathyroidectomy for adenoma or hyperplasia is reviewed, and the question of observation of patients with mild hypercalcemia who probably have parathyroid tumors is discussed.