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Open access

Elizabeth M Madill, Shamil D Cooray and Leon A Bach

Summary

Thyrotoxicosis is an under-recognised but clinically important complication of parathyroidectomy. We report a case of a 37-year-old man with tertiary hyperparathyroidism who initially developed unexplained anxiety, diaphoresis, tachycardia, tremor and hyperreflexia one day after subtotal parathyroidectomy. Thyroid biochemistry revealed suppressed thyroid stimulating hormone and elevated serum free T4 and free T3 levels. Technetium-99m scintigraphy scan confirmed diffusely decreased radiotracer uptake consistent with thyroiditis. The patient was diagnosed with thyrotoxicosis resulting from palpation thyroiditis. Administration of oral beta-adrenergic antagonists alleviated his symptoms and there was biochemical evidence of resolution fourteen days later. This case illustrates the need to counsel patients about thyroiditis as one of the potential risks of parathyroid surgery. It also emphasises the need for biochemical surveillance in patients with unexplained symptoms in the post-operative period and may help to minimise further invasive investigations for diagnostic clarification.

Learning points

  • Thyroiditis as a complication of parathyroidectomy surgery is uncommon but represents an under-recognised phenomenon.

  • It is thought to occur due to mechanical damage of thyroid follicles by vigorous palpation.

  • Palpation of the thyroid gland may impair the physical integrity of the follicular basement membrane, with consequent development of an inflammatory response.

  • The majority of patients are asymptomatic, however clinically significant thyrotoxicosis occurs in a minority.

  • Patients should be advised of thyroiditis/thyrotoxicosis as a potential complication of the procedure.

  • Testing of thyroid function should be performed if clinically indicated, particularly if adrenergic symptoms occur post-operatively with no other cause identified.

Open access

Ling Zhu, Sueziani Binte Zainudin, Manish Kaushik, Li Yan Khor and Chiaw Ling Chng

Summary

Type II amiodarone-induced thyrotoxicosis (AIT) is an uncommon cause of thyroid storm. Due to the rarity of the condition, little is known about the role of plasma exchange in the treatment of severe AIT. A 56-year-old male presented with thyroid storm 2months following cessation of amiodarone. Despite conventional treatment, his condition deteriorated. He underwent two cycles of plasma exchange, which successfully controlled the severe hyperthyroidism. The thyroid hormone levels continued to fall up to 10h following plasma exchange. He subsequently underwent emergency total thyroidectomy and the histology of thyroid gland confirmed type II AIT. Management of thyroid storm secondary to type II AIT can be challenging as patients may not respond to conventional treatments, and thyroid storm may be more harmful in AIT patients owing to the underlying cardiac disease. If used appropriately, plasma exchange can effectively reduce circulating hormones, to allow stabilisation of patients in preparation for emergency thyroidectomy.

Learning points

  • Type II AIT is an uncommon cause of thyroid storm and may not respond well to conventional thyroid storm treatment.

  • Prompt diagnosis and therapy are important, as patients may deteriorate rapidly.

  • Plasma exchange can be used as an effective bridging therapy to emergency thyroidectomy.

  • This case shows that in type II AIT, each cycle of plasma exchange can potentially lower free triiodothyronine levels for 10h.

  • Important factors to consider when planning plasma exchange as a treatment for thyroid storm include timing of each session, type of exchange fluid to be used and timing of surgery.

Open access

Christine Yu, Inder J Chopra and Edward Ha

Summary

Ipilimumab, a novel therapy for metastatic melanoma, inhibits cytotoxic T-lymphocyte apoptosis, causing both antitumor activity and significant autoimmunity, including autoimmune thyroiditis. Steroids are frequently used in treatment of immune-related adverse events; however, a concern regarding the property of steroids to reduce therapeutic antitumor response exists. This study describes the first reported case of ipilimumab-associated thyroid storm and implicates iopanoic acid as an alternative therapy for immune-mediated adverse effects. An 88-year-old woman with metastatic melanoma presented with fatigue, anorexia, decreased functional status, and intermittent diarrhea for several months, shortly after initiation of ipilimumab – a recombinant human monoclonal antibody to the cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 (CTLA4). On arrival, she was febrile, tachycardic, and hypertensive with a wide pulse pressure, yet non-toxic appearing. She had diffuse, non-tender thyromegaly. An electrocardiogram (EKG) revealed supraventricular tachycardia. Blood, urine, and stool cultures were collected, and empiric antibiotics were started. A computed tomography (CT) angiogram of the chest was negative for pulmonary embolism or pneumonia, but confirmed a diffusely enlarged thyroid gland, which prompted thyroid function testing. TSH was decreased at 0.16 μIU/ml (normal 0.3–4.7); free tri-iodothyronine (T3) was markedly elevated at 1031 pg/dl (normal 249–405), as was free thyroxine (T4) at 5.6 ng/dl (normal 0.8–1.6). With iopanoic acid and methimazole therapy, she markedly improved within 48 h, which could be attributed to lowering of serum T3 with iopanoic acid rather than to any effect of the methimazole. Ipilimumab is a cause of overt thyrotoxicosis and its immune-mediated adverse effects can be treated with iopanoic acid, a potent inhibitor of T4-to-T3 conversion.

Learning points

  • While ipilimumab more commonly causes autoimmune thyroiditis, it can also cause thyroid storm and clinicians should include thyroid storm in their differential diagnosis for patients who present with systemic inflammatory response syndrome.

  • Immune-related adverse reactions usually occur after 1–3 months of ipilimumab and baseline thyroid function testing should be completed before initiation with ipilimumab.

  • Conflicting data exist on the use of prednisone for treatment of CTLA4 adverse effects and its attenuation of ipilimumab's antitumor effect. Iopanoic acid may be considered as an alternative therapy in this setting.

Open access

Lauren J Baker, Anthony J Gill, Charles Chan, Betty P C Lin and Bronwyn A Crawford

Summary

In 2006, a 58-year-old woman presented with thyrotoxicosis. She had undergone left hemithyroidectomy 14 years before for a benign follicular adenoma. Ultrasound imaging demonstrated bilateral cervical lymphadenopathy with enhanced tracer uptake in the left lateral neck on a Technetium-99m uptake scan. Fine-needle aspiration biopsy of a left lateral neck node was insufficient for a cytological diagnosis; however, thyroglobulin (Tg) washings were strongly positive. The clinical suspicion was of functionally active metastatic thyroid cancer in cervical lymph nodes. A completion thyroidectomy and bilateral cervical lymph node dissection were performed. Histology demonstrated benign multinodularity in the right hemithyroid, with bilateral reactive lymphadenopathy and 24 benign hyperplastic thyroid nodules in the left lateral neck that were classified as parasitic thyroid nodules. As there had been a clinical suspicion of thyroid cancer, and the hyperplastic/parasitic thyroid tissue in the neck was extensive, the patient was given ablative radioactive iodine (3.7 GBq). After 2 years, a diagnostic radioactive iodine scan was clear and the serum Tg was undetectable. The patient has now been followed for 7 years with no evidence of recurrence. Archived tissue from a left lateral neck thyroid nodule has recently been analysed for BRAF V600E mutation, which was negative.

Learning points

  • Thyrotoxicosis due to functional thyroid tissue in the lateral neck is very rare and may be due to metastatic thyroid cancer or benign parasitic thyroid tissue.

  • Parasitic thyroid nodules should be considered as a differential diagnosis of lateral neck thyroid deposits, particularly where there is a history of prior thyroid surgery.

  • Parasitic thyroid nodules may occur as a result of traumatic rupture or implantation from a follicular adenoma at the time of surgery.

  • The use of ablative radioactive iodine may be appropriate, as resection of all parasitic thyroid tissue can prove difficult.

  • BRAF mutational analysis of parasitic thyroid tissue may provide extra reassurance in the exclusion of papillary thyroid carcinoma.

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.