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Horm Res. 2005;64(6):293-8. Epub 2005 Nov 1.

Effects on bone mineral density by treatment of benign nodular goiter with mildly suppressive doses of L-thyroxine in a cohort women study.

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Endocrinology Unit, Regina Elena Cancer Institute, Rome, Italy.



Thyroid diseases and their treatment may influence the osseous system. The influence that prolonged suppressive L-thyroxine (LT4) therapy may have on inducing subclinical hyperthyroidism on bone metabolism is still a matter of debate. The aim of the present study was to assess the effects of chronic LT4 treatment at mildly inhibiting serum thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) doses on bone mineral density (BMD) and biochemical bone remodeling markers in a cohort of women with benign nodular goiter, and to verify the efficacy of the treatment on nodule size.


A total of 200 euthyroid Caucasian women with nodular goiter (age 52.1 +/- 9; 80 pre- and 120 postmenopausal) were enrolled: 96 had been treated with LT4 for at least 3 years and a matched group of 104 had untreated goiter. LT4 therapy was given at a dose sufficient to reduce TSH under the lower limit of the normal range (0.27-4.20 microIU/ml) without suppressing it below the limit of assay sensitivity (0.005 microIU/ml) and maintaining normal serum values of free triiodothyronine (FT3) and free thyroxine (FT4). The adequacy of the dose was evaluated on the basis of serum TSH levels. The osteopenic effect of LT4 treatment was evaluated directly by total body and lumbar spine dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) and indirectly by biochemical parameters (alkaline phosphatase, osteocalcin, calcium, parathyroid hormone) at the baseline and throughout the follow-up. The efficacy of LT4 schedule on thyroid nodule size was assessed on the basis of the ultrasonographic evaluation.


Mineralometric data showed no significant difference between BMD values for treated and untreated patients in both pre- and postmenopausal status. In all patients, serum markers of bone turnover were in the normal range, with no differences in the treated and control groups. The TSH concentrations were significantly lower in treated than in untreated patients (p < 0.0001); FT3 and FT4 were in the normal range for all patients. Evaluation of nodule size during follow-up showed a reduction of > or = 30% in 32 of 96 treated patients (33.3%) versus none in those untreated, whilst nodule size remained unmodified in 60 treated patients (62.5%) versus 35 (33.6%) in those untreated, and an increase in nodule size and/or development of new nodules was found in 4 treated patients (4.2%) versus 69 of the 104 untreated patients (66.3%).


This study suggests that at slightly suppressing TSH doses, LT4 therapy has no adverse effects on BMD in both pre- and postmenopausal women, while having an efficacy on nodule size comparable with that reported using an LT4 schedule able to maintain TSH near or below the assay sensitivity limit.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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