New OR Hormone Testing Unwrapped at Houston VA
HOUSTON - The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center recently added a new intra-operative hormone test for parathyroid surgery patients.
The parathyroid glands are four small endocrine glands in the neck that produce the parathyroid hormone (PTH). Among other functions, these glands control the amount of calcium in the bones. Sometimes they produce too much PTH resulting in a condition called hyperparathyroidism. Too much PTH can lead to Vitamin D deficiency and chronic kidney disease and such symptoms as fatigue, depression, and bone pain.
A recent study suggests that 90 percent of individuals with hyperparathyroidism have only one diseased gland. Once the illness is properly diagnosed and the patient is scheduled for surgery, the surgeon’s challenge is to successfully find the diseased gland. A hormone test is performed in order to find the overactive gland.
“In the past when a patient needed a parathyroid hormone test, we had to send the blood samples to Oklahoma,” said Carla Braxton, M.D., M.B.A., F.A.C.S., a member of the MEDVAMC surgery staff. “Being able to do the test here while we are in the operating room allows us to do a much more focused operation and zero in on the parathyroid gland that is overactive.”
Along with specialized training, Braxton has extensive experience with the intra-operational technique of PTH testing in the operating room. Hired last September, she brought those unique skills with her to care for Veterans at the MEDVAMC.
“In November, our labs were able to get the machinery and the reacting chemicals in order to do parathyroid hormone testing here,” said Braxton. “At the same time, we were able to implement the intra-operative protocol I had developed at my previous hospital.”
These new techniques were immediately helpful to local Veterans. A Pearland Veteran, who was recently treated for hyperparathyroidism and had a small benign tumor removed from his parathyroid, was extremely pleased with the results.
“I was happy to know that there was a new technique available to help with my parathyroid surgery,” said Navy Veteran Clifford Schoeffler. “The surgery was very successful. I am delighted with Dr. Braxton and the new ideas that she has brought to the Houston VA.”
The new intra-operative parathyroid hormone testing protocol is available for all patients whose health care practitioners suspect elevated parathyroid hormone levels. The MEDVAMC is one of only a handful of hospitals where this procedure is performed.
“This is a specialized diagnosis and a specific procedure,” said Braxton. “Relatively few medical centers offer minimal-access parathyroid surgery with intra-operative parathyroid hormone measurement. Using this protocol, we are able to get test results back – not just the same week or the same day, but in the same hour so that real-time decisions can be made in the operating room.”
“We strive to offer the latest, surgical techniques for our Veterans,” said Samir S. Awad, M.D., Interim Operative Care Line executive at the MEDVAMC and associate professor of Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine. "We are proud the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center has talented and skilled doctors like Dr. Braxton.”