OBJECTIVES: In 1994, WHO/International Council for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders recommended replacing the WHO 1960 four-grade goiter classification with a simplified two-grade system. The effect of this change in criteria on the estimation of goiter prevalence in field studies is unclear. In areas of mild iodine deficiency disorders (IDD) where goiters are small, ultrasound is preferable to palpation to estimate goiter prevalence. However, in areas of moderate to severe IDD, goiter screening by palpation may be an acceptable alternative to thyroid ultrasound. To address these two issues, we compared WHO 1960 and 1994 criteria with thyroid ultrasound for determination of goiter prevalence in areas of mild and severe IDD in Morocco. DESIGN: A cross-sectional study of 400 six- to 13-year-old children from two mountain villages (Ait M'hamed and Brikcha) in rural Morocco was carried out. METHODS: Urinary iodine concentration (UI), whole blood TSH and serum thyroxine were measured. Thyroid size was graded by inspection and palpation by two examiners using both WHO 1960 and 1994 criteria. Thyroid volume was determined by ultrasound. Variation between examiners and examination methods was assessed. Sensitivity and specificity of the two classification systems compared with ultrasound were calculated. RESULTS: Median UIs in Ait M'hamed and Brikcha were 183 and 24 microg/l respectively. In Ait M'hamed, using 1960 and 1994 criteria, goiter prevalence was 21 and 26% respectively, compared with 13% by ultrasound. In Brikcha, with 1960 and 1994 criteria, goiter prevalence was 64 and 67% respectively, compared with 64% by ultrasound. Agreement between observers was better with the 1994 criteria than with the 1960 criteria in Ait M'hamed (kappa=0.53 and 0.47 respectively), while in Brikcha observer agreement was similar with the two systems (kappa=0.67). Using either the 1994 or 1960 criteria, agreement with ultrasound was only moderate in Ait M'hamed (kappa=0.41-0.44), but good in Brikcha (kappa=0.55-0.64). Overall, compared with ultrasound, sensitivity increased 3-4% using 1994 criteria, while specificity decreased 4-5%. CONCLUSIONS: The WHO 1994 criteria are simpler to use than the 1960 criteria and provide increased sensitivity with only a small reduction in specificity. Agreement between observers is better with the 1994 criteria than with the 1960 criteria, particularly in areas of mild IDD. Like the 1960 criteria, the 1994 criteria overestimate goiter prevalence in areas of mild IDD, compared with ultrasound. However, the 1994 palpation criteria provide an accurate estimate of goiter prevalence in areas of severe IDD, and may be an acceptable and affordable alternative to thyroid ultrasound in these areas.
If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.