Levothyroxine dose requirements for thyrotropin suppression in the treatment of differentiated thyroid cancer

Lynn A Burmeister, Michel O. Gøumaz, Cary N.Mari Ash, Jack H. Oppenheimer

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114 Scopus citations


We have compared the dose of levothyroxine (L-T4) required to suppress serum TSH to given levels in two clinical groups: 1) 44 patients with thyroid cancer whose thyroid glands had been ablated by surgical thyroidectomy and 131I treatment, and 2) 113 patients with thyroidal failure due either to spontaneous primary hypothyroidism (31 patients) or after 131I treatment for Graves' hyperthyroidism (82 patients). The dose of L-T4 needed to attain serum TSH levels in the euthyroid range (0.5-6.2 microU/mL) was significantly greater (P < 0.01) in patients with thyroid cancer (2.11 μg/kg.day) than in the patients with primary hypothyroidism associated with nonmalignant disease (1.63 μg/kg.day). Similarly, patients with thyroid cancer required a higher dose of L-T4 to suppress serum TSH to a given subnormal level. These findings suggest that the secretion of hormone from residual thyroid tissue in patients who have not been subjected to near-total thyroid ablation contributes substantially to the circulating levels of serum T4 and T3. We, therefore, infer that residual thyroidal secretion in the patients with hypothyroidism due to benign causes is relatively independent of TSH stimulation. Further subdivision of patients with benign hypothyroidism revealed that patients with Graves’ who developed hypothyroidism after 131I treatment showed a lower mean dose requirement than patients with spontaneous hypothyroidism. This raises the possibility that continued secretion of thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulin in such patients might account for the lower dose requirement in the combined group with hypothyroidism. Our studies also have allowed us to make serial observations in 4 patients with thyroid cancer who exhibited elevated levels of serum thyroglobulin. In this limited series, maximal suppression of serum thyroglobulin was produced by doses of L-T4, which reduced circulating TSH to 0.4 mU/L.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)344-350
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1992


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