Limited value of repeat recombinant human thyrotropin (rhTSH)-stimulated thyroglobulin testing in differentiated thyroid carcinoma patients with previous negative rhTSH-stimulated thyroglobulin and undetectable basal serum thyroglobulin levels

M G Castagna, L Brilli, T Pilli, A Montanaro, C Cipri, C Fioravanti, F Sestini, M Capezzone, F Pacini
Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 2008, 93 (1): 76-81

CONTEXT: One year after initial treatment, low-risk differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) patients undergo recombinant human (rh)TSH-stimulated serum thyroglobulin (Tg) (rhTSH-Tg) and neck ultrasound (US).

OBJECTIVE: The need for more rhTSH-Tg in these patients is controversial. We evaluated the utility of a second rhTSH-Tg in DTC patients 2-3 yr after their first evaluation.

RESULTS: At the first rhTSH-Tg, basal and stimulated serum Tg was undetectable in 68 of 85 patients. Neck US was unremarkable in all but one, who had evidence of lymph node disease. Seventeen of 85 patients had undetectable serum Tg that became positive after rhTSH, with negative imaging in 10 and evidence of disease in seven. Patients with no evidence of disease were reevaluated 2-3 yr later (second rhTSH-Tg). In patients in which the first stimulated Tg was undetectable, all had undetectable basal serum Tg, which remained undetectable after rhTSH in 66 of 67 patients (98.5%) and became detectable in one (1.5%) (positive neck US). In the 10 patients with detectable stimulated Tg in the first test, basal serum Tg and US were negative at the second test, but rhTSH-Tg became detectable in six. Compared with the first rhTSH-Tg, the second stimulated Tg in these six patients decreased in one, increased in three, and stabilized in two patients.

CONCLUSIONS: The second rhTSH-Tg was informative in patients who had first stimulated Tg detectable but not in those who had undetectable Tg at the first test, in which the only patient with recurrence was diagnosed by neck US. Thus, rhTSH-Tg should be repeated only in patients who have had a positive first rhTSH-Tg and negative imaging.

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