In patients with chronic renal failure, secondary hyperparathyroidism (sHPT) is a common problem requiring surgical parathyroidectomy (PTX) if medical treatment with active vitamin D and calcimimetics fails. To minimize the risk for recurrence, we perform total PTX (tPTX) without autotransplantation. From October 1997 to January 2004, 46 patients (31 men and 15 women) underwent tPTX without autotransplantation (median age 51 years; range 19-80 years; median dialysis time before PTX 5 years; range 0-25 years). Indications for PTX were hyperparathyroid bone disease in 41 cases and calciphylaxis in 5 cases. Postoperatively, all patients were supplemented with vitamin D analogues, both calcitriol and cholecalciferol. Patients were followed up for 4-107 months (median 63 months). Although tPTX was intended in all cases, we saw recurrent or persistent hyperparathyroidism in 26% and supernumerary glands in 15% of cases. In 7 patients (15%), five or more glands were documented and in another four suspected confirming the clinical relevance of intraoperative parathyroid hormone (PTH) measurement. In our study, the positive predictive value of a low intraoperative PTH (<20 pg/ml) for a successful tPTX was 92%. 15 patients received a renal transplant after tPTX without autotransplantation. Here, an uncomplicated hypocalcaemia was noted in 3 patients. Last available calcium levels were between 1.72 and 2.66 mmol/l (median 2.35 mmol/l). After follow-up, active vitamin D was given in a median daily dose of 0.5 microg calcitriol (range 0-2.5 microg/day). There was no evidence of clinical bone disease and no pathological fractures after tPTX after a median observation period of 63 months. tPTX still offers the highest percentage of cure for sHPT, it is safe and postoperatively easily manageable. It allows for adequate supplementation with active vitamin D, and it is the most cost-effective procedure. It should be reconsidered an option for the treatment of sHPT.