Pitfalls in the Laboratory Diagnosis of Atypical Hyperthyroidism

Joel I. Hamburger, MD
Arch Intern Med. 1979;139(1):96-98. doi:10.1001/archinte.1979.03630380074024.
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When hyperthyroidism results from active thyroidal secretion, both serum hormonal levels and the radioactive iodine uptake (RAI) are elevated. Discordant results (increased serum hormone levels and a low RAI) are found either in the usual forms of hyperthyroidism when large quantities of iodide are ingested, or in atypical forms of hyperthyroidism, including spontaneously resolving hyperthyroidism of subacute thyroiditis, thyrotoxicosis factitia, toxic struma ovarii, and functioning metastatic thyroid cancer.

Two patients are described who exemplify pitfalls in the interpretation of thyroid function test results in atypical hyperthyroidism. The following guidelines are helpful in avoiding these pitfalls: (1) An RAI should be performed in all thyrotoxic patients to confirm the presence of thyroidal hypersecretion, rather than atypical hyperthyroidism. (2) A positive response to thyroidstimulating hormone stimulation is an important finding differentiating the other atypical forms of hyperthyroidism listed from subacute thyroiditis.

(Arch Intern Med 139:96-98, 1979)


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