How is primary hyperparathyroidism diagnosed and treated in a large integrated health system using electronic health records?
In this national cohort study of 371 370 veterans with chronic hypercalcemia, 86 887 (23.4%) were evaluated for primary hyperparathyroidism with serum parathyroid hormone level. Of 47 158 patients with hormonal evidence of primary hyperparathyroidism, 6049 (12.8%) underwent definitive treatment with parathyroidectomy.
Primary hyperparathyroidism appears to be underdiagnosed despite the presence of chronic hypercalcemia, and it is undertreated with parathyroidectomy despite surgical indications.
Untreated primary hyperparathyroidism impairs quality of life and incurs substantial costs. Parathyroidectomy is a low-risk, high-success, definitive intervention.
To determine the appropriateness of diagnostic evaluation for primary hyperparathyroidism in patients with hypercalcemia and the use of parathyroidectomy for the treatment of primary hyperparathyroidism across the Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system.
Design, Setting, and Participants
A retrospective cohort study of veterans with hypercalcemia and primary hyperparathyroidism was conducted from January 1, 2000, through September 30, 2015, using the VA Corporate Data Warehouse, a national electronic health record–based repository. The study included 371 370 veterans with chronic hypercalcemia and 47 158 veterans with biochemical evidence of primary hyperparathyroidism diagnosed by hypercalcemia, elevated serum parathyroid hormone levels, and near-normal serum creatinine levels. Statistical analysis was performed from April 21, 2017, to April 10, 2019.
Main Outcomes and Measures
The proportion of veterans with hypercalcemia who have parathyroid hormone levels evaluated, the proportion of veterans with hyperparathyroidism who are treated surgically, and the factors associated with parathyroidectomy using generalized linear latent and mixed model regression.
Of 371 370 patients with chronic hypercalcemia, 86 887 (23.4%) received further testing with parathyroid hormone level. Of 47 158 patients meeting diagnostic criteria for primary hyperparathyroidism (42 737 men [90.6%] and 4421 women [9.4%]; mean [SD] age, 67.3 [11.8] years), 6048 (12.8%) underwent parathyroidectomy. Of 5793 patients with primary hyperparathyroidism presenting with a serum calcium level more than 1 mg/dL above the upper limit of normal, 1501 (25.9%) underwent parathyroidectomy. There was a decreasing trend in the use of parathyroidectomy over time. Factors positively associated with parathyroidectomy were nephrolithiasis (odds ratio [OR], 2.23; 95% CI, 1.90-2.61) and non-Hispanic white race/ethnicity (OR, 1.31; 95% CI, 1.17-1.46), while age (OR, 0.95; 95% CI, 0.95-0.96), Elixhauser Comorbidity Index score (OR, 0.76; 95% CI, 0.72-0.80), decreased estimated glomerular filtration rate (OR, 0.52; 95% CI, 0.45-0.60), and diagnosis of osteoporosis (OR, 0.65; 95% CI, 0.52-0.80) were inversely related to surgery.
Conclusions and Relevance
From this study’s findings, parathyroid hormone level is infrequently tested in patients with hypercalcemia, suggesting underdiagnosis of primary hyperparathyroidism. Patients meeting diagnostic criteria for primary hyperparathyroidism are undertreated with recommended parathyroidectomy. Similar gaps have previously been observed in non-VA care of primary hyperparathyroidism, suggesting the need for a systematic evaluation of barriers to diagnosis and treatment that informs intervention design.
Identify all potential conflicts of interest that might be relevant to your comment.
Conflicts of interest comprise financial interests, activities, and relationships within the past 3 years including but not limited to employment, affiliation, grants or funding, consultancies, honoraria or payment, speaker's bureaus, stock ownership or options, expert testimony, royalties, donation of medical equipment, or patents planned, pending, or issued.
Err on the side of full disclosure.
If you have no conflicts of interest, check "No potential conflicts of interest" in the box below. The information will be posted with your response.
Not all submitted comments are published. Please see our commenting policy for details.
Alore EA, Suliburk JW, Ramsey DJ, et al. Diagnosis and Management of Primary Hyperparathyroidism Across the Veterans Affairs Health Care System. JAMA Intern Med. Published online July 15, 2019. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.1747
Browse and subscribe to JAMA Network podcasts!
Customize your JAMA Network experience by selecting one or more topics from the list below.
Create a personal account or sign in to: