JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Refined use of scintigraphy in the evaluation of nodular thyroid disease.

Surgery 1998 October
BACKGROUND: Scintigraphy has been advocated in patients with a thyroid nodule when fine needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB) is not definitive. The purpose of this study was to determine the incidence of hyperfunctioning nodules in patients without a definitive FNAB, the correlation of serum thyrotropin (TSH) levels with the functional status of a nodule, and whether a sensitive TSH assay can be used in lieu of scintigraphy.

METHODS: From 1990 to 1996, patients with a thyroid nodule were evaluated with FNAB and serum TSH measurement. Iodine-123 scintigraphy was reserved for patients without a definitive FNAB and was correlated with TSH levels.

RESULTS: Of 356 patients with a thyroid nodule, 102 did not have a definitive FNAB. A hyperfunctioning nodule was diagnosed in 14 of the 102 patients. A low TSH level was detected in 12 (86%) of 14 patients with a hyperfunctioning nodule (mean = 0.04 +/- 0.38 microIU/mL) and only 20 (23%) of 88 patients with a hypofunctioning nodule (mean = 0.87 +/- 4.11 microIU/mL) (P < .05). Only 2 of 70 (2.8%) patients with a normal or increased TSH level had a hyperfunctioning nodule.

CONCLUSIONS: A 14% incidence of hyperfunctioning nodules in patients without a definitive FNAB warrants the use of scintigraphy but only when serum TSH levels are low, thus avoiding unnecessary scans in 91% of patients with a thyroid nodule.

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