In elderly patients presenting with a solid thyroid mass, the differential diagnosis between benign and malignant lesion is not always straightforward. We present the case of an 85-year-old woman with fever and an enlarged, firm and painful thyroid mass. Blood exams documented a mild thyrotoxicosis with a moderate inflammatory status. Thyroid scintiscan showed an absent uptake of 131I. Ultrasound and CT scan documented a 3 cm hypoechoic nodule with infiltration of the sternocleidomastoid muscle, very suspicious for neoplastic nature. Fine-needle aspiration and tru-cut biopsy were performed. During biopsy, the lesion was partially drained and a brownish fluid was extracted. The culture resulted positive for Klebsiella pneumoniae whereas the pathological analysis of the specimen was not conclusive due to the presence of an intense inflammatory response. A targeted oral antibiotic therapy was then initiated, obtaining only a partial response thus, in order to achieve a definite diagnosis, a minimally invasive hemithyroidectomy was performed. The pathological analysis documented acute suppurative thyroiditis and the clinical conditions of the patient significantly improved after surgical removal of thyroid abscess. In elderly patients with a solid thyroid mass, although neoplastic origin is quite frequent, acute suppurative thyroiditis should be considered as a differential diagnosis.
- A solid and rapidly growing thyroid mass in elderly patients can hide a multifaceted variety of diseases, both benign and malign.
- A multidisciplinary team (endocrinologist, surgeon, radiologist and pathologist) could be necessary in order to perform a correct differential diagnosis and therapeutic approach.
- Surgery can be decisive not only to clarify a clinically uncertain diagnosis, but also to rapidly improve the clinical conditions of the patient.