Sustained control of Graves' hyperthyroidism during long-term low-dose antithyroid drug therapy of patients with severe Graves' orbitopathy

Peter Laurberg, Dalia C Berman, Stig Andersen, Inge Bülow Pedersen
Thyroid: Official Journal of the American Thyroid Association 2011, 21 (9): 951-6

BACKGROUND: Patients with severe Graves' orbitopathy often have hyperthyroidism that is difficult to treat and a high proportion of patients experience relapse of hyperthyroidism after a course of antithyroid drug (ATD) therapy of fixed duration. The aim of the study was to evaluate the feasibility of prolonged low-dose ATD therapy for attaining stable euthyroidism in patients with severe Graves' orbitopathy and hyperthyroidism.

METHODS: We performed retrospective analyses of data collected during observation of a cohort of patients (n = 108) treated for severe Graves' orbitopathy and for hyperthyroidism using partial block with low-dose thionamide + replacement with levothyroxine (L-T4) for >2 years. The study was performed at a university hospital referral center for patients with severe Graves' orbitopathy.

RESULTS: The median duration of thionamide therapy was 80 months (25-75 percentiles: 55-115 months); 101 patients received methimazole (median: 5 mg/day) without side effects during prolonged therapy, and 7 propylthiouracil (median: 200 mg/day); median L-T4 dose was 0.1 mg/day. Ninety percent of patients remained euthyroid throughout the period of therapy, and 65% of them had thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) receptor antibodies in serum within the assay reference interval at the last observation. Only four (3.7%) developed episodes of hyperthyroidism during stable therapy, and 94% had serum TSH within 0.1-4.0 mU/L at the last observation. One patient developed reversible cutaneous vasculitis after 6 years of propylthiouracil therapy.

CONCLUSIONS: Prolonged partial block plus replacement therapy with low-dose ATD + L-T4 keeps the majority of patients with severe Graves' orbitopathy and hyperthyroidism stable and euthyroid.

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