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Lara Ulrich, Graham Knee and Colin Todd

Summary

Haemorrhage of a parathyroid adenoma is a rare clinical presentation. This report describes a previously fit and well 54-year-old woman who presented with acute neck swelling and pain with an overlying ecchymosis. Admission laboratory tests revealed a raised parathyroid hormone and hypercalcaemia. A computed tomography (CT) scan showed widespread anterior cervical haemorrhage and a lesion at the inferior pole of the left thyroid gland. A working diagnosis of spontaneous haemorrhage from a parathyroid adenoma was made. As she was haemodynamically stable, she was treated conservatively with a period of observation in hospital to monitor for signs of neck organ compression. Follow-up imaging with CT, ultrasound and sestamibi confirmed the likely source of haemorrhage as a parathyroid nodule with significant vascularity. The diagnosis was confirmed on histopathological analysis after elective surgical exploration of the neck 6 months after her presentation. This revealed a benign parathyroid adenoma with evidence of acute and chronic bleeding. The patient made a full recovery with immediate normalisation of her biochemistry post-operatively. Despite developing a hoarse voice in the immediate post-operative period, this resolved completely within 1 month. This case report provides further evidence to support a minimal delay for elective surgery after conservative management to reduce the risks associated with recurrent bleeding.

Learning points

  • Haemorrhage of a parathyroid adenoma should be a differential for all cases of acute cervical swelling or ecchymosis with no precipitating factor.

  • The clerking should identify any risk factors for endocrine disease.

  • Blood tests to screen for abnormal parathyroid biochemistry should be performed on admission.

  • Detailed imaging of the neck is essential to identify the source of haemorrhage and risk of compression to vital neck organs.

  • Conservative management is a suitable option for patients who remain haemodynamically stable but all should undergo a period of observation in hospital.

  • Conservatively managed patients should be considered for definitive surgical exploration within a month of presentation to avoid the risks of recurrent bleeding.