BACKGROUND: Primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) is a common endocrine disorder usually due to hyperfunctioning parathyroid glands (HP). Surgical removal of HP is the main treatment in PHPT, particularly in symptomatic patients. The correct detection and localization of HP is challenging and crucial as it may guide surgical treatment in patients with PHPT. To date, different imaging methods have been used to detect and localize HP in patients with PHPT including radiology, nuclear medicine and hybrid techniques. This review is focused to describe the diagnostic performance of several imaging methods used in detecting HP in patients with PHPT.
METHODS: We have summarized the diagnostic performance of different imaging methods used in detecting HP in patients with PHPT taking into account recent evidence-based articles published in the literature. To this regard findings of recently published meta-analyses on the diagnostic accuracy of imaging methods in PHPT were reported. Furthermore a suggested imaging strategy taking into account the diagnostic performance and further consideration has been described.
RESULTS: Cervical ultrasound (US) and parathyroid scintigraphy using 99mTc-MIBI are the most commonly employed first-line investigations in patients with PHPT, with many institutions using both methods in combination. The diagnostic performance of US and planar 99mTc-MIBI scintigraphy seems to be similar. The use of tomographic imaging (SPECT and SPECT/CT) increases the detection rate of HP compared to planar 99mTc-MIBI scintigraphy. Whereas traditional computed tomography (CT) has limited usefulness in PHPT, four dimensional CT (4D-CT) has similar diagnostic performance compared to tomographic parathyroid scintigraphy but a higher radiation dose. Although initial encouraging results, to date there is insufficient evidence to recommend the routine use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or positron emission tomography (PET) with several radiopharmaceuticals in patients with PHPT. However, they could be useful alternatives in cases with negative or discordant findings at first-line imaging methods.
CONCLUSIONS: Patients with PHPT who are candidates for parathyroidectomy should be referred to an expert clinician to decide which imaging studies to perform based on regional imaging capabilities. The imaging techniques with higher diagnostic performance in detecting and localizing HP seems to be 99mTc-MIBI SPECT/CT and 4D-CT. Taking into account several data beyond the diagnostic performance, the combination of cervical US performed by an experienced parathyroid sonographer and 99mTc-MIBI SPECT or SPECT//CT seems to be an optimal first-line strategy in the preoperative planning of patients with PHPT.