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Open access

Tessa Glyn, Beverley Harris and Kate Allen

Summary

We present the case of a 57-year-old lady who had a delayed diagnosis of central hypothyroidism on a background of Grave’s thyrotoxicosis and a partial thyroidectomy. During the twenty years following her partial thyroidectomy, the patient developed a constellation of symptoms and new diagnoses, which were investigated by numerous specialists from various fields, namely rheumatology, renal and respiratory. She developed significantly impaired renal function and raised creatine kinase (CK). She was also referred to a tertiary neurology service for investigation of myositis, which resulted in inconclusive muscle biopsies. Recurrently normal TSH results reassured clinicians that this did not relate to previous thyroid dysfunction. In 2015, she developed increased shortness of breath and was found to have a significant pericardial effusion. The clinical biochemist reviewed this lady’s blood results and elected to add on a free T4 (fT4) and free T3 (fT3), which were found to be <0.4 pmol/L (normal range (NR): 12–22 pmol/L) and 0.3 pmol/L (NR: 3.1–6.8 pmol/L), respectively. She was referred urgently to the endocrine services and commenced on Levothyroxine replacement for profound central hypothyroidism. Her other pituitary hormones and MRI were normal. In the following year, her eGFR and CK normalised, and her myositis symptoms, breathlessness and pericardial effusion resolved. One year following initiation of Levothyroxine, her fT4 and fT3 were in the normal range for the first time. This case highlights the pitfalls of relying purely on TSH for excluding hypothyroidism and the devastating effect the delay in diagnosis had upon this patient.

Learning points:

  • Isolated central hypothyroidism is very rare, but should be considered irrespective of previous thyroid disorders.

  • If clinicians have a strong suspicion that a patient may have hypothyroidism despite normal TSH, they should ensure they measure fT3 and fT4.

  • Laboratories that do not perform fT3 and fT4 routinely should review advice sent to requesting clinicians to include a statement explaining that a normal TSH excludes primary but not secondary hypothyroidism.

  • Thyroid function tests should be performed routinely in patients presenting with renal impairment or a raised CK.

Open access

Wei Lin Tay, Wann Jia Loh, Lianne Ai Ling Lee and Chiaw Ling Chng

Summary

We report a patient with Graves’ disease who remained persistently hyperthyroid after a total thyroidectomy and also developed de novo Graves’ ophthalmopathy 5 months after surgery. She was subsequently found to have a mature cystic teratoma containing struma ovarii after undergoing a total hysterectomy and salpingo-oophorectomy for an incidental ovarian lesion.

Learning points:

  • It is important to investigate for other causes of primary hyperthyroidism when thyrotoxicosis persists after total thyroidectomy.

  • TSH receptor antibody may persist after total thyroidectomy and may potentially contribute to the development of de novo Graves’ ophthalmopathy.

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

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.