A major challenge in endocrine surgery is the intraoperative detection of parathyroid glands during both thyroidectomies and parathyroidectomies. Current localization techniques such as ultrasound and sestamibi scan are mostly preoperative and rely on an abnormal parathyroid for its detection. In this paper, we present near-infrared (NIR) autofluorescence as a nonintrusive, real-time, automated in vivo method for the detection of the parathyroid gland. A pilot in vivo study was conducted to assess the ability of NIR fluorescence to identify parathyroid glands during thyroid and parathyroidectomies. Fluorescence measurements at 785 nm excitation were obtained intra-operatively from the different tissues exposed in the neck region in 21 patients undergoing endocrine surgery. The fluorescence intensity of the parathyroid gland was found to be consistently greater than that of the thyroid and all other tissues in the neck of all patients. In particular, parathyroid fluorescence was two to eleven times higher than that of the thyroid tissues with peak fluorescence occurring at 820 to 830 nm. These results indicate that NIR fluorescence has the potential to be an excellent optical tool to locate parathyroid tissue during surgery.