Race and Gender Disparities in Access to Parathyroidectomy: A Need to Change Processes for Diagnosis and Referral to Surgeons

Reema Mallick, Rongbing Xie, James K. Kirklin, Herbert Chen, Courtney J. Balentine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: Hyperparathyroidism substantially impairs quality of life, and effective treatment depends on timely referral to surgeons. We hypothesized that there would be race and gender disparities in the time from initial diagnosis of hyperparathyroidism to treatment with parathyroidectomy. Methods: We reviewed administrative data on 2289 patients with hypercalcemia (calcium > 10.5 mg/dL) and abnormal parathyroid hormone levels who were seen at a tertiary referral center from 2011 to 2016. We used two-phase parametric hazard modeling to identify predictors of time from index abnormal calcium until parathyroidectomy. Results: The median age of our cohort was 63 years, and 1685 (74%) were women. Of the total patients, 1301 (57%) were Caucasian, and 946 (41%) were African-American. Only 490 (21%) patients underwent parathyroidectomy. Among patients undergoing surgery, time from index high calcium to surgical treatment was longest for African-American men, who waited a median of 13.6 months (interquartile range IQR 2–28), compared with 2.9 months (IQR 1–8) for Caucasian males (p < 0.05). African-American women waited a median of 6.7 months (IQR 2–16) versus 3.5 months (IQR 2–14) for Caucasian women (p < 0.05). At 1 year after the index abnormal calcium, only 6% of black men underwent surgery compared with 20% of white males (p < 0.05). Similarly, 13% of black women underwent surgery versus 20% of white women (p < 0.05). These differences remained significant after adjusting for age, calcium levels, insurance, and comorbidities. Conclusions: African-Americans face substantial delays in access to parathyroidectomy after diagnosis with hyperparathyroidism that could impair quality of life and increase health care costs. We must improve systems of diagnosis and referral to ensure timely treatment of hyperparathyroidism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)476-483
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of Surgical Oncology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Oncology


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