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Open access

Maria Tomkins, Roxana Maria Tudor, Diarmuid Smith and Amar Agha

Summary

This case is the first to describe a patient who experienced concomitant agranulocytosis and anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA)-associated vasculitis as an adverse effect of propylthiouracil treatment for Graves’ disease. A 42-year-old female with Graves’ disease presented to the emergency department (ED) with a 2-week history of fevers, night sweats, transient lower limb rash, arthralgia, myalgia and fatigue. She had been taking propylthiouracil for 18 months prior to presentation. On admission, agranulocytosis was evident with a neutrophil count of 0.36 × 109/L and immediately propylthiouracil was stopped. There was no evidence of active infection and the patient was treated with broad-spectrum antibodies and one dose of granulocyte colony-stimulation factor, resulting in a satisfactory response. On further investigation, ANCAs were positive with dual positivity for proteinase 3 and myeloperoxidase. There was no evidence of end-organ damage secondary to vasculitis, and the patient’s constitutional symptoms resolved completely on discontinuation of the drug precluding the need for immunosuppressive therapy.

Learning points:

  • Continued vigilance and patient education regarding the risk of antithyroid drug-induced agranulocytosis is vital throughout the course of treatment.
  • ANCA-associated vasculitis is a rare adverse effect of antithyroid drug use.
  • Timely discontinuation of the offending drug is vital in reducing end-organ damage and the need for immunosuppressive therapy in drug-induced ANCA-associated vasculitis.
  • Similarities in the pathogenesis of agranulocytosis and drug-induced ANCA-associated vasculitis may offer insight into an improved understanding of vasculitis and agranulocytosis.
Open access

Ehtasham Ahmad, Kashif Hafeez, Muhammad Fahad Arshad, Jimboy Isuga and Apostolos Vrettos

Summary

Primary hypothyroidism is a common endocrine condition, most commonly caused by autoimmune thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s disease) while Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism is usually a permanent condition in most patients requiring lifelong levothyroxine treatment. Transformation from Hashimoto’s disease to Graves’ disease is considered rare but recently been increasingly recognised. We describe a case of a 61-year-old lady who was diagnosed with hypothyroidism approximately three decades ago and treated with levothyroxine replacement therapy. Approximately 27 years after the initial diagnosis of hypothyroidism, she started to become biochemically and clinically hyperthyroid. This was initially managed with gradual reduction in the dose of levothyroxine, followed by complete cessation of the medication, but she remained hyperthyroid, ultimately requiring anti-thyroid treatment with Carbimazole. This case highlights that there should be a high index of suspicion for a possible conversion of hypothyroidism to hyperthyroidism, even many years after the initial diagnosis of hypothyroidism. To our knowledge, this case illustrates the longest reported time interval between the diagnosis of hypothyroidism until the conversion to hyperthyroidism.

Learning points:

  • Occurrence of Graves’ disease after primary hypothyroidism is uncommon but possible.
  • In this case, there was a time-lapse of almost 28 years and therefore this entity may not be as rare as previously thought.
  • Diagnosis requires careful clinical and biochemical assessment. Otherwise, the case can be easily confused for over-replacement of levothyroxine.
  • We suggest measuring both anti-thyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibodies and TSH receptor antibodies (TRAB) in suspected cases.
  • The underlying aetiology for the conversion is not exactly known but probably involves autoimmune switch by an external stimulus in genetically susceptible individuals.
Open access

Colin L Knight, Shamil D Cooray, Jaideep Kulkarni, Michael Borschmann and Mark Kotowicz

A 51 year old man presented with sepsis in the setting of thioamide-induced agranulocytosis. Empiric broad-spectrum antibiotics was followed by directed narrow-spectrum antibiotics, and his neutrophil count recovered with support from granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) analogue transfusions. After a brief period of multi-modal therapy for nine days including potassium iodide (Lugol’s iodine), cholestyramine, propanolol and lithium to temper his persisting hyperthyroidism, a total thyroidectomy was performed while thyroid hormone levels remained at thyrotoxic levels. Postoperative recovery was uncomplicated and he was discharged home on thyroxine. There is limited available evidence to guide treatment in this unique cohort of patients who require prompt management to avert impending clinical deterioration. This case report summarises the successful emergent control of thyrotoxicosis in the setting of thioamide-induced agranulocytosis complicated by sepsis, and demonstrates the safe use of multi-modal pharmacological therapies in preparation for total thyroidectomy.

Learning points:

  • Thioamide-induced agranulocytosis is an uncommon but potentially life-threatening complication of which all prescribers and patients need to be aware.
  • A multi-modal preoperative pharmacological approach can be successful, even when thioamides are contraindicated, when needing to prepare a thyrotoxic patient for semi-urgent total thyroidectomy.
  • There is not enough evidence to confidently predict the safe timing when considering total thyroidectomy in this patient cohort, and therefore it should be undertaken when attempts have first been made to safely reduce thyroid hormone levels.
  • Thyroid storm is frequently cited as a potentially severe complication of thyroid surgery undertaken in thyrotoxic patients, although the evidence does not demonstrate this as a common occurrence.
Open access

R D’Arcy, M McDonnell, K Spence and C H Courtney

Summary

A 42-year-old male presented with a one-week history of palpitations and sweating episodes. The only significant history was of longstanding idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy. Initial ECG demonstrated a sinus tachycardia. Thyroid function testing, undertaken as part of the diagnostic workup, revealed an un-measureable thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and free thyroxine (T4). Upon questioning the patient reported classical thyrotoxic symptoms over the preceding weeks. Given the persistence of symptoms free tri-iodothyronine (T3) was measured and found to be markedly elevated at 48.9 pmol/L (normal range: 3.1–6.8 pmol/L). No goitre or nodular disease was palpable in the neck. Historically there had never been any amiodarone usage. Radionucleotide thyroid uptake imaging (123I) demonstrated significantly reduced tracer uptake in the thyroid. Upon further questioning the patient reported purchasing a weight loss product online from India which supposedly contained sibutramine. He provided one of the tablets and laboratory analysis confirmed the presence of T3 in the tablet. Full symptomatic resolution and normalised thyroid function ensued upon discontinuation of the supplement.

Learning points:

  • Free tri-iodothyronine (T3) measurement may be useful in the presence of symptoms suggestive of thyrotoxicosis with discordant thyroid function tests.
  • Thyroid uptake scanning can be a useful aid to differentiating exogenous hormone exposure from endogenous hyperthyroidism.
  • Ingestion of thyroid hormone may be inadvertent in cases of exogenous thyrotoxicosis.
  • Medicines and supplements sourced online for weight loss may contain thyroxine (T4) or T3 and should be considered as a cause of unexplained exogenous hyperthyroidism.
Open access

Alfredo Di Cerbo, Federica Pezzuto and Alessandro Di Cerbo

Summary

Graves’ disease, the most common form of hyperthyroidism in iodine-replete countries, is associated with the presence of immunoglobulins G (IgGs) that are responsible for thyroid growth and hyperfunction. In this article, we report the unusual case of a patient with acromegaly and a severe form of Graves’ disease. Here, we address the issue concerning the role of growth hormone (GH) and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) in influencing thyroid function. Severity of Graves’ disease is exacerbated by coexistent acromegaly and both activity indexes and symptoms and signs of Graves’ disease improve after the surgical remission of acromegaly. We also discuss by which signaling pathways GH and IGF1 may play an integrating role in regulating the function of the immune system in Graves’ disease and synergize the stimulatory activity of Graves’ IgGs.

Learning points:

  • Clinical observations have demonstrated an increased prevalence of euthyroid and hyperthyroid goiters in patients with acromegaly.
  • The coexistence of acromegaly and Graves’ disease is a very unusual event, the prevalence being <1%.
  • Previous in vitro studies have showed that IGF1 synergizes the TSH-induced thyroid cell growth-activating pathways independent of TSH/cAMP/PKA cascade.
  • We report the first case of a severe form of Graves’ disease associated with acromegaly and show that surgical remission of acromegaly leads to a better control of symptoms of Graves’ disease.
Open access

Arshiya Tabasum, Ishrat Khan, Peter Taylor, Gautam Das and Onyebuchi E Okosieme

Summary

TSH receptor antibodies (TRAbs) are the pathological hallmark of Graves’ disease, present in nearly all patients with the disease. Euthyroid Graves’ ophthalmopathy (EGO) is a well-recognized clinical entity, but its occurrence in patients with negative TRAbs is a potential source of diagnostic confusion. A 66-year-old female presented to our endocrinology clinic with right eye pain and diplopia in the absence of thyroid dysfunction. TRAbs were negative, as measured with a highly sensitive third-generation thyrotropin-binding inhibitory immunoglobulin (TBII) ELISA assay. CT and MRI scans of the orbit showed asymmetrical thickening of the inferior rectus muscles but no other inflammatory or malignant orbital pathology. Graves’ ophthalmopathy (GO) was diagnosed on the basis of the clinical and radiological features, and she underwent surgical recession of the inferior rectus muscle with complete resolution of the diplopia and orbital pain. She remained euthyroid over the course of follow-up but ultimately developed overt clinical and biochemical hyperthyroidism, 24 months after the initial presentation. By this time, she had developed positive TRAb as well as thyroid peroxidase antibodies. She responded to treatment with thionamides and remains euthyroid. This case highlights the potential for negative thyroid-specific autoantibodies in the presentation of EGO and underscores the variable temporal relationship between the clinical expression of thyroid dysfunction and orbital disease in the natural evolution of Graves’ disease.

Learning points

  • Euthyroid Graves’ ophthalmopathy can present initially with negative thyroid-specific autoantibodies.
  • Patients with suggestive symptoms of ophthalmopathy should be carefully evaluated for GO with imaging studies even when thyroid function and autoantibodies are normal.
  • Patients with EGO can develop thyroid dysfunction within 4 years of follow-up underpinning the need for long-term follow-up and continued patient and physician vigilance in patients who have been treated for EGO.

Open access

Luísa Correia Martins, Ana Rita Coutinho, Mónica Jerónimo, Joana Serra Caetano, Rita Cardoso, Isabel Dinis and Alice Mirante

Summary

Alternating between hyper- and hypo-thyroidism may be explained by the simultaneous presence of both types of TSH receptor autoantibodies (TRAbs) – thyroid stimulating autoantibodies (TSAbs) and TSH blocking autoantibodies (TBAbs). It is a very rare condition, particulary in the pediatric age. The clinical state of these patients is determined by the balance between TSAbs and TBAbs and can change over time. Many mechanisms may be involved in fluctuating thyroid function: hormonal supplementation, antithyroid drugs and levels of TSAbs and TBAbs. Frequent dose adjustments are needed in order to achieve euthyroidism. A definitive therapy may be necessary to avoid switches in thyroid function and frequent need of therapeutic changes. We describe an immune-mediated case of oscillating thyroid function in a 13-year-old adolescent. After a short period of levothyroxine treatment, the patient switched to a hyperthyroid state that was only controlled by adding an antithyroid drug.

Learning points

  • Autoimmune alternating hypo- and hyper-thyroidism is a highly uncommon condition in the pediatric age.
  • It may be due to the simultaneous presence of both TSAbs and TBAbs, whose activity may be estimated in vitro through bioassays.
  • The clinical state of these patients is determined by the balance between TSAbs and TBAbs and can change over time.
  • The management of this condition is challenging, and three therapeutic options could be considered: I-131 ablation, thyroidectomy or pharmacological treatment (single or double therapy).
  • Therapeutic decisions should be taken according to clinical manifestations and thyroid function tests, independent of the bioassays results.
  • A definitive treatment might be considered due to the frequent switches in thyroid function and the need for close monitoring of pharmacological treatment. A definitive treatment might be considered due to the frequent switches in thyroid function and the need for close monitoring of pharmacological treatment.

Open access

Anastasia Dimakopoulou, Karunakaran Vithian, David Gannon and Allan Harkness

Summary

A 55-year-old female patient presented to the endocrine clinic with Grave's disease. She was initially treated with carbimazole. After an early relapse, a decision was made to proceed with radioactive iodine therapy. Four days after radioiodine administration, she presented to the emergency department with chest tightness and dyspnea due to heart failure. Biochemistry revealed thyrotoxicosis and significantly elevated Troponin-T. There was ST segment elevation on electrocardiography. However, coronary angiography was normal. Ventricular function was fully restored after 6 weeks of supportive medical management. A diagnosis of stress cardiomyopathy following radioactive iodine therapy was made. This is the second case reported in the literature so far to the best of our knowledge.

Learning points

  • Stress cardiomyopathy in the context of radiation thyroiditis is a rare complication following radioiodine therapy.
  • A degree of awareness is essential because the approach is multidisciplinary. Management is mainly supportive and cardiac dysfunction is completely reversible in most cases.
  • The pathogenesis of this condition remains unclear. Post-menopausal women and susceptible individuals appear to be pre-disposed.

Open access

T Min, S Benjamin and L Cozma

Summary

Thyroid storm is a rare but potentially life-threatening complication of hyperthyroidism. Early recognition and prompt treatment are essential. Atrial fibrillation can occur in up to 40% of patients with thyroid storm. Studies have shown that hyperthyroidism increases the risk of thromboembolic events. There is no consensus with regard to the initiation of anticoagulation for atrial fibrillation in severe thyrotoxicosis. Anticoagulation is not routinely initiated if the risk is low on a CHADS2 score; however, this should be considered in patients with thyroid storm or severe thyrotoxicosis with impending storm irrespective of the CHADS2 risk, as it appears to increase the risk of thromboembolic episodes. Herein, we describe a case of thyroid storm complicated by massive pulmonary embolism.

Learning points

  • Diagnosis of thyroid storm is based on clinical findings. Early recognition and prompt treatment could lead to a favourable outcome.
  • Hypercoagulable state is a recognised complication of thyrotoxicosis.
  • Atrial fibrillation is strongly associated with hyperthyroidism and thyroid storm.
  • Anticoagulation should be considered for patients with severe thyrotoxicosis and atrial fibrillation irrespective of the CHADS2 score.
  • Patients with severe thyrotoxicosis and clinical evidence of thrombosis should be immediately anticoagulated until hyperthyroidism is under control.