European Journal of Endocrinology

 The clinical value of regular thyroid function tests during amiodarone treatment
 
Objective

Amiodarone is used for the maintenance of sinus rhythm in patients with arrhythmias, but thyroid dysfunction (amiodarone-induced thyrotoxicosis (AIT) or amiodarone-induced hypothyroidism (AIH)) is a common adverse effect. As the onset of AIT and AIH may be unpredictable, the value of long-term regular monitoring of amiodarone treated patients for thyroid dysfunction is still uncertain.

Design

We retrospectively documented the frequency at which overt thyroid dysfunction was preceded by subclinical thyroid dysfunction.

Methods

We included 303 patients treated with amiodarone between 1984 and 2007. AIT was defined as a lowered TSH level with an elevated free thyroxine (FT4) and AIH was defined as an elevated TSH level with a decreased or subnormal FT4. Subclinical AIT was defined as a lowered TSH level with a normal FT4 and subclinical AIH as an elevated TSH level with a normal FT4.

Results

200 men and 103 women, aged 62 ± 12.0 years, suffering from atrial (260) or ventricular (43) arrhythmias, were evaluated. During a median follow-up of 2.8 (1.0–25) years, 44 patients developed AIT and 33 AIH. In 42 (55%) patients who developed AIT/AIH, earlier thyroid function tests showed no subclinical AIT or subclinical AIH. In 35 (45%) patients, AIT/AIH was preceded by subclinical AIT or subclinical AIH (16/44 for AIT and 19/33 for AIH).

Conclusions

In a considerable proportion of patients who developed AIT/AIH, earlier thyroid function tests showed no subclinical AIT/AIH. Less than half of the patients with a subclinical event subsequently developed overt AIT/AIH. This study provides data to reconsider the yield of regular testing of thyroid function to predict overt thyroid dysfunction in amiodarone treated patients.