Dr. Ron’s Research Review – May 31, 2017

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This week’s research review focuses on thyroid hormone testing.

A recent article describes what should be done when thyroid function tests do not make sense, with a focus on the differential diagnosis of conditions associated with elevated T4 and/or T3 together with non-suppressed (inappropriate) thyrotropin levels. In many such cases, reassessment of the clinical context provides an explanation for the discrepant TFTs; in other instances, interference in one or other laboratory assays can be shown to account for divergent results; uncommonly, genetic defects in the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis are associated with anomalous TFTs. Failure to recognize these potential 'pitfalls' can lead to misdiagnosis and inappropriate management. (Gurnell et al., 2011)

Fortunately, most TFTs are straightforward to interpret and confirm the clinical impression of euthyroidism, hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. However, in an important subgroup of patients the results of TFTs can seem confusing, either by virtue of being discordant with the clinical picture or because they appear incongruent with each other [e.g. raised thyroid hormones (TH), but with non-suppressed thyrotropin (TSH); raised TSH, but with normal TH]. In such cases, it is important first to revisit the clinical context, and to consider potential confounding factors, including alterations in normal physiology (e.g. pregnancy), intercurrent (non-thyroidal) illness, and medication usage (e.g. thyroxine, amiodarone, heparin). Once these have been excluded, laboratory artefacts in commonly used TSH or TH immunoassays should be screened for, thus avoiding unnecessary further investigation and/or treatment in cases where there is assay interference. In the remainder, consideration should be given to screening for rare genetic and acquired disorders of the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid (HPT) axis [e.g. resistance to thyroid hormone (RTH), thyrotropinoma (TSHoma)]. (Koulouri et al., 2013)

 

Dr. Ron


 

Articles

What should be done when thyroid function tests do not make sense?
            (Gurnell et al., 2011) Download
Interpretation of thyroid function tests (TFTs) is generally straightforward. However, in a minority of contexts the results of thyroid hormone and thyrotropin measurements either conflict with the clinical picture or form an unusual pattern. In many such cases, reassessment of the clinical context provides an explanation for the discrepant TFTs; in other instances, interference in one or other laboratory assays can be shown to account for divergent results; uncommonly, genetic defects in the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis are associated with anomalous TFTs. Failure to recognize these potential 'pitfalls' can lead to misdiagnosis and inappropriate management. Here, focusing particularly on the combination of hyperthyroxinaemia with nonsuppressed thyrotropin, we show how a structured approach to investigation can help make sense of atypical TFTs.

Pitfalls in the measurement and interpretation of thyroid function tests.
            (Koulouri et al., 2013) Download
Thyroid function tests (TFTs) are amongst the most commonly requested laboratory investigations in both primary and secondary care. Fortunately, most TFTs are straightforward to interpret and confirm the clinical impression of euthyroidism, hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. However, in an important subgroup of patients the results of TFTs can seem confusing, either by virtue of being discordant with the clinical picture or because they appear incongruent with each other [e.g. raised thyroid hormones (TH), but with non-suppressed thyrotropin (TSH); raised TSH, but with normal TH]. In such cases, it is important first to revisit the clinical context, and to consider potential confounding factors, including alterations in normal physiology (e.g. pregnancy), intercurrent (non-thyroidal) illness, and medication usage (e.g. thyroxine, amiodarone, heparin). Once these have been excluded, laboratory artefacts in commonly used TSH or TH immunoassays should be screened for, thus avoiding unnecessary further investigation and/or treatment in cases where there is assay interference. In the remainder, consideration should be given to screening for rare genetic and acquired disorders of the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid (HPT) axis [e.g. resistance to thyroid hormone (RTH), thyrotropinoma (TSHoma)]. Here, we discuss the main pitfalls in the measurement and interpretation of TFTs, and propose a structured algorithm for the investigation and management of patients with anomalous/discordant TFTs.


 

References

Gurnell, M, DJ Halsall, and VK Chatterjee (2011), ‘What should be done when thyroid function tests do not make sense?’, Clin Endocrinol (Oxf), 74 (6), 673-78. PubMed: 21521292
Koulouri, O, et al. (2013), ‘Pitfalls in the measurement and interpretation of thyroid function tests.’, Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab, 27 (6), 745-62. PubMed: 24275187