European Journal of Endocrinology

 MANAGEMENT OF ENDOCRINE DISEASE: Arguments for the prolonged use of antithyroid drugs in children with Graves disease

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder. It is the leading cause of hyperthyroidism, but is rare in children. Patients are initially managed with antithyroid drugs (ATDs), such as methimazole/carbimazole. A major disadvantage of treatment with ATD is the high risk of relapse, exceeding 70% of children treated for duration of 2 years, and the potential major side effects of the drug reported in exceptional cases. The major advantage of ATD treatment is that normal homeostasis of the hypothalamus–pituitary–thyroid axis may be restored, with periods of drug treatment followed by freedom from medical intervention achieved in approximately 40–50% of cases after prolonged treatment with ATD, for several years, in recent studies. Alternative ablative treatments such as radioactive iodine and, less frequently and mostly in cases of very high volume goiters or in children under the age of 5 years, thyroidectomy, performed by pediatric surgeons with extensive experience should be proposed in cases of non-compliance, intolerance to medical treatment or relapse after prolonged medical treatment. Ablative treatments are effective against hyperthyroidism, but they require the subsequent administration of levothyroxine throughout the patient’s life. This review considers data relating to the prognosis for Graves’ disease remission in children and explores the limitations of study designs and results; and the emerging proposal for management through the prolonged use of ATD drugs.