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WM Wiersinga

Fine-needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) of thyroid nodules is a relatively simple test to perform without complications. Consensus has now been reached in the medical community that FNAC has superior diagnostic accuracy and cost effectiveness compared to all other tests and imaging techniques in the discrimination between benign and malignant thyroid nodules. Nevertheless, the last few years have witnessed a flurry of reviews on the evaluation and management of thyroid nodules in major medical and endocrine journals (1–5). This probably indicates that it was no easy sailing since the wide introduction of FNAC in the 1980s and that clinicians still face difficulties in the appropriate management of patients with a thyroid nodule. Basic to the continuing debate in my opinion is the fact that doctors very often must practise their art in the face of uncertainty, which they find hard to cope with. On the one hand, they are eager not

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MF Prummel and WM Wiersinga

To ascertain the strength of the association between thyroid autoimmunity and miscarriage, we performed a meta-analysis of both case-control and longitudinal studies performed since 1990 when this association was first described. A clear association between the presence of thyroid antibodies and miscarriage was found with an odds ratio (OR) of 2.73 (95 % confidence interval (CI), 2.20-3.40) in eight case-control and ten longitudinal (OR, 2.30; 95 % CI, 1.80-2.95) studies. This association may be explained by a heightened autoimmune state affecting the fetal allograft, of which thyroid antibodies are just a marker. Alternatively, the association can be partly explained by the slightly higher age of women with antibodies compared with those without (mean+/-S.D. age difference, 0.7+/-1.0 years; P<0.001). A third possibility is mild thyroid failure, as thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels in antibody-positive but euthyroid women are higher than in antibody-negative women: difference 0.81+/-0.58 mU/l (P=0.005). Randomized clinical trials with l-thyroxine (aiming at TSH values between 0.4 and 2.0 mU/l) and with selenium (to decrease antibodies against thyroid peroxidase) are clearly needed to elucidate further the nature of this association.

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SW Lamberts, JA Romijn, and WM Wiersinga

In recent years the future position of clinical endocrinology has been extensively discussed by Western European endocrine societies. Clinical endocrinology seems to suffer from being too intellectual, generating too little income, and lacking too few spectacular interventions. In this manuscript we describe 'the endocrine patient' of the past, the present, and the future. Complete therapeutic breakthroughs resulting in 'cure' are compared with 'halfway technologies' which help in creating the (life-long) chronic endocrine patient. The potential use of molecular diagnostics in optimalizing hormone replacement therapy is discussed. Clinical endocrinology is at risk of developing into a subspecialty where life-style drugs created for new diseases or conditions are offered, but also actively pursued by otherwise healthy individuals (e.g. in normal short stature, regulation of appetite, body composition, sexuality, reproduction and aging). The potential opportunities and risks for clinical endocrinology in creating 'the endocrine patient' of the future are discussed.

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MF Prummel, T Strieder, and WM Wiersinga

Genetic factors play an important role in the pathogenesis of autoimmune thyroid disease (AITD) and it has been calculated that 80% of the susceptibility to develop Graves' disease is attributable to genes. The concordance rate for AITD among monozygotic twins is, however, well below 1 and environmental factors thus must play an important role. We have attempted to carry out a comprehensive review of all the environmental and hormonal risk factors thought to bring about AITD in genetically predisposed individuals. Low birth weight, iodine excess and deficiency, selenium deficiency, parity, oral contraceptive use, reproductive span, fetal microchimerism, stress, seasonal variation, allergy, smoking, radiation damage to the thyroid gland, viral and bacterial infections all play a role in the development of autoimmune thyroid disorders. The use of certain drugs (lithium, interferon-alpha, Campath-1H) also increases the risk of the development of autoimmunity against the thyroid gland. Further research is warranted into the importance of fetal microchimerism and of viral infections capable of mounting an endogenous interferon-alpha response.

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PR Gallas, RP Stolk, K Bakker, E Endert, and WM Wiersinga

BACKGROUND: The prevalence of thyroid dysfunction in pregnancy and in the first postpartum year (postpartum thyroid dysfunction (PPTD)) in women with diabetes mellitus type 1 (DM1) is known to be higher than in the general population. To assess prevalence, incidence and risk factors in The Netherlands we performed a prospective cohort study. DESIGN: From 1994 to 1998, 126 women with DM1 from eight Dutch clinics were included. TSH, free thyroxine, free tri-iodothyronine and anti-thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPO-ab) were measured pre-pregnancy, in the first and last trimester of pregnancy and at 1.5, 3, 6, 9 and 12 months after delivery. RESULTS: Eighty-two women completed the study. Thyroid dysfunction during pregnancy was observed in 22.5% (first trimester) and 18.4% (third trimester), and mostly consisted of subclinical hypothyroidism. Baseline characteristics of women with thyroid dysfunction in pregnancy did not differ from those without thyroid dysfunction. Overt PPTD was seen in 15.9%. Incidence of PPTD was 10%. Patients with PPTD were slightly older than those without PPTD and the prevalence of TPO-ab was higher in these women. CONCLUSION: In women with DM1 the prevalence of thyroid dysfunction during pregnancy and overt PPTD is 3-fold higher than in the general Dutch population. Risk factors are age and TPO-ab. Given the possible impact on psychomotor development of the offspring and on well-being of the mother these data suggest there is a case for screening (pre-)pregnant women with DM1 for TSH and TPO-ab.

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MJ Diekman, MP Harms, E Endert, W Wieling, and WM Wiersinga

OBJECTIVE: Total peripheral vascular resistance (TPR) decreases in thyrotoxicosis and increases in hypothyroidism. Several mechanisms may be involved, including adaptation to changes in heat production and direct non-genomic effects of tri-iodothyronine (T3) on vascular smooth muscle cells. The aim of this study was to see if changes in TPR are related to changes in plasma concentrations of the endothelial hormones adrenomedullin and endothelin-1 as well as other hormones affecting vasculature. DESIGN: A prospective study. SUBJECTS: Eleven hypothyroid patients (pretreatment: thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) 68 (38-201) mU/l, T3 0.7 (0.35-1.5) nmol/l, fT4 3.0 (2.0-5.9) pmol/l, median (range)) and 14 with hyperthyroidism (pretreatment: TSH 0.02 (<0.01-0.06) mU/l, T3 6.4 (2.3-13.0) nmol/l, fT4 56.1 (22.9-70.0) pmol/l) were studied before treatment and 3 months after reaching the euthyroid state. Blood collection was carried out simultaneously with the recording of finger arterial pressure (FINAP). Cardiac output and TPR were derived from stroke volume computations by modelling flow from the FINAP signal. RESULTS: Thyroid-function tests of hypothyroid and thyrotoxic patients did not differ after restoration of the euthyroid state. TPR, expressed in arbitrary units (AU), decreased after correction of hypothyroidism (from 1.32+/-0.65 to 0.96+/-0.36 AU, P=0.04) and increased after correction of hyperthyroidism (from 0.75+/-0.18 to 1.10+/-0.35 AU, P=0.007). Adrenomedullin concentrations did not change during the transition from the hypothyroid state 3.2(0.9-11.0) pmol/l to the euthyroid state 4.9(0.9-8.6) pmol/l, but decreased after treatment of hyperthyroidism, from 5.2(0.9-11.0) pmol/l to 2.2(0.9-5.4) pmol/l. Plasma endothelin-1 was undetectable in all samples. Changes in TPR upon treatment correlated with log DeltafT4 (r=-0.65, P=0.001), log DeltaT3, (r=-0.57, P=0.006), Delta noradrenaline (r=0.54, P=0.02) and Delta ANP (atrial natriuretic peptide) (r=-0.59, P=0.004). Multiple linear regression analysis indicated that only T3 was an independent determinant of TPR. Changes in T3 accounted for 46% of the variability in the changes in TPR. CONCLUSIONS: TPR is reduced in thyrotoxicosis and increased in hypothyroidism. Restoration of the euthyroid state normalizes TPR. Changes in TPR are not related to plasma adrenomedullin concentrations, but 46% could be explained by changes in T3. Altered ANP secretion and adrenergic tone may contribute to the T3-induced changes in TPR.

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JL Kuijpens, VJ Pop, HL Vader, HA Drexhage, and WM Wiersinga

BACKGROUND: Screening pregnant women for thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPOAb) to identify those at risk for post partum thyroid dysfunction (PPTD) is controversial, mainly because of the low positive predictive value (ppv) of TPOAb. OBJECTIVES: To evaluate if the ppv of TPOAb can be enhanced, either by taking into account the time of TPOAb testing, or by combining this parameter with other putative determinants of PPTD such as smoking, family history or other autoimmune diseases. METHODS: A prospective study was performed in the Kempenland region (southeastern Netherlands). Three hundred and ten unselected women were visited at 12 and 32 weeks gestation and 4, 12, 20, 28 and 36 weeks post partum. Serial thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), free thyroxine (fT4) and TPOAb testing was performed. Thyroid dysfunction (TD) was defined as abnormal TSH either in combination with abnormal fT4 (overt TD) or without abnormal fT4 (subclinical TD). PPTD was defined as overt TD post partum. Multivariate regression analysis was performed for determining independent risk factors for PPTD. The sensitivity and specificity of TPOAb at different time points and at different concentrations were calculated and presented in receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves. Women who had experienced PPTD were followed for 2.5-3 years. RESULTS: Data from 291 women were available for analysis. Serum fT4 declined during pregnancy and returned to baseline values post partum. TD in gestation was present in 23 women (7.9%): serum TSH was transiently decreased in 13 (6 had overt gestational thyrotoxicosis (2.1%)) and increased in 10 (2 had TPOAb). Both point prevalence and concentration of TPOAb decreased during gestation and returned to baseline levels within 12 weeks post partum. TD in post partum was present in 36 women (12.4%): 21 had subclinical and 15 overt TD. Out of the 15 women with overt TD (incidence of PPTD: 5.2%) 10 were positive for TPOAb (TPOAb+): 9 had thyrotoxicosis (4 TPOAb+), 5 hypothyroidism (5 TPOAb+) and 1 thyrotoxicosis followed by hypothyroidism (TPOAb+). Independent risk factors for PPTD were TPOAb (relative risk (RR) = 2 7.2), bottle feeding (RR = 11.1) and smoking habits (ever smoked: RR = 3.1; women with PPTD had smoked more cigarettes for a longer period of time). The sensitivity of TPOAb testing was highest at 12 weeks gestation (0.67). The ppv of TPOAb was 0.31-0.75 (depending on time of testing and concentration), increasing slightly to 0.38-0.80 when combined with bottle feeding or smoking habits. There appeared to be an autoimmune form of PPTD in 2/3 of cases and a non-autoimmune form; women with the autoimmune form were at risk for developing permanent hypothyroidism. CONCLUSIONS: A maximum of 2/3 of PPTD cases can be predicted from the presence of TPOAb because 1/3 remained negative for TPOAb. The most appropriate time for TPOAb testing is in the first trimester of pregnancy. The combination of TPOAb testing with anamnestic determinants of PPTD does not increase ppv substantially.

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A Boelen, J Kwakkel, M Platvoet-ter Schiphorst, B Mentrup, A Baur, J Koehrle, and WM Wiersinga

OBJECTIVE: Proinflammatory cytokines are involved in the pathogenesis of non-thyroidal illness (NTI), as shown by studies with IL-6-/- and IL-12-/- mice. Interleukin (IL)-6 changes peripheral thyroid hormone metabolism, and IL-12 seems to be involved in the regulation of the central part of the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid (HPT) axis during illness. IL-18 is a proinflammatory cytokine which shares important biological properties with IL-12, such as interferon (IFN)-gamma-inducing activity. DESIGN: By studying the changes in the HPT-axis during bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced illness in IL-18-/-, IFNgammaR-/- and wild-type (WT) mice, we wanted to unravel the putative role of IL-18 and IFNgamma in the pathogenesis of NTI. RESULTS: LPS induced a decrease in pituitary type 1 deiodinase (D1) activity (P<0.05, ANOVA) in WT mice, but not in IL-18-/- mice, while the decrease in D2 activity was similar in both strains. LPS decreased serum thyroid hormone levels and liver D1 mRNA within 24 h similarly in IL-18-/-, and WT mice. The expression of IL-1, IL-6 and IFNgamma mRNA expression was significantly lower in IL-18-/- mice than in WT, while IL-12 mRNA expression was similar. IFNgammaR-/- mice had higher basal D1 activity in the pituitary than WT mice (P<0.05); LPS induced a decrease of D2, but not of D1, activity in the pituitary which was similar in both strains. In the liver, the LPS-induced increase in cytokine expression was not different between IFNgammaR-/- mice and WT mice, and the decrease in serum T3 and T4 levels and hepatic D1 mRNA was also similar. CONCLUSIONS: The relative decrease in serum T3 and T4 and liver D1 mRNA in response to LPS is similar in IL-18-/-, IFNgammaR-/- and WT mice despite significant changes in hepatic cytokine induction. However, the LPS-induced decrease in D1 activity in the pituitary of WT mice is absent in IL-18-/- mice; in contrast, LPS did not decrease pituitary D1 activity in the IFNgammaR-/- mice or their WT, which might be due to the genetic background of the mice. Our results suggest that IL-18 is also involved in the regulation of the central part of the HPT axis during illness.

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JL Kuijpens, HL Vader, HA Drexhage, WM Wiersinga, MJ van Son, and VJ Pop

OBJECTIVE: Depression is not adequately diagnosed in many cases. Therefore, the question arises as to whether markers exist for depression. We investigated whether the presence of thyroperoxidase antibodies (TPOAbs) during pregnancy can be regarded as a marker for depression in the first year postpartum, particularly in relation to (overt or subclinical) thyroid dysfunction and other determinants of depression. DESIGN: This work was a prospective observational study. PATIENTS: A cohort of 310 unselected women (residing in the Kempen Region, southeastern Netherlands) were visited at 12 and 32 weeks gestation and at 4, 12, 20, 28 and 36 weeks postpartum. METHODS: At each visit, TSH, free thyroxine and TPOAb testing was performed, determinants associated with depression were asked for, and depression was assessed (according to the Research Diagnostic Criteria). Multiple logistic regression was performed to determine independent risk factors (odds ratios, ORs) for depression in gestation and/or postpartum depression. RESULTS: Data for 291 women were available for analysis; 41 women (14.1%) had TPOAbs at one or more time points, and 117 women (40.1%) had depression at one or more time points postpartum. The multiple logistic regression analysis showed that TPOAbs were independently associated with depression at 12 weeks gestation and at 4 and 12 weeks postpartum (OR, 95% confidence interval: 2.4 (1.1-6.0), 3.8 (1.3-7.3) and 3.6 (1.2-7.1) respectively). After the exclusion of women who were depressed at 12 weeks gestation (n=70), the presence of TPOAbs during early pregnancy was still found to be associated with the development of postpartum depression (OR, 95% confidence interval: 2.8 (1.7-4.5); after exclusion of women who had had depression in earlier life (n=51), TPOAb during early gestation was still associated with postpartum depression (OR, 95% confidence interval: 2.9 (1.8-4.3). CONCLUSIONS: The presence of TPOAbs during gestation is associated with the occurrence of subsequent depression during the postpartum period and as such can be regarded as a marker for depression.