The anatomical basis for preserving the blood supply to the parathyroids during thyroid surgery, and a review of current technologic advances

Ariana L. Shaari, Sarah L. Spaulding, Monica H. Xing, Lauren E. Yue, Rosalie A. Machado, Sami P. Moubayed, Neil Mundi, Raymond L. Chai, Mark L. Urken

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Devascularization of the parathyroid glands is generally accepted as the most common mechanism for iatrogenic hypocalcemia, a frequently seen complication of both total and completion thyroidectomy procedures. Much has been written about iatrogenic hypoparathyroidism, but few papers have precisely delineated the arterial supply of the parathyroid glands and the common anatomical variations that may impact parathyroid preservation during thyroid surgery. Methods: We offer an illustrated review and discussion of the only two anatomic studies published in the medical literature focusing on parathyroid vasculature. In addition, we examine current techniques of parathyroid identification, preservation, and classification. Findings: A surgical technique that preserves the parathyroid arteries is vital to preserving the viability of the parathyroid gland(s) during thyroid surgery. In 1907, Halsted and Evans described a technique of ligating the distal branches of the thyroid arteries beyond the origin of the parathyroid arteries, a technique termed ultra-ligation. In 1982, Flament et al. reported three distinct anatomical variations of the parathyroid arteries which place the parathyroid blood supply at risk for devascularization during thyroid surgery. Our review also highlights novel techniques that aid surgeons in identification and assessment of the parathyroid glands. Conclusions: Recognition of the variations of parathyroid anatomy and their potential to lead to devascularization aids thyroid surgeons in their pursuit of parathyroid preservation. An awareness of the variety of novel parathyroid identification and preservation techniques can assist surgeons to achieve this goal.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103161
JournalAmerican Journal of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Medicine and Surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • Anatomical basis
  • Blood supply
  • Parathyroid anatomy
  • Parathyroid glands
  • Thyroid surgery
  • Vasculature


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