2007 Volume 54 Issue 5 Pages 713-720
In most trials, at least 30-60% of patients with Graves' disease treated with antithyroid drugs relapse within 2 years after therapy withdrawal. At present, there are no prognostic parameters available early in treatment to indicate patients likely to achieve long-term remission. Because thyrotropin receptor autoantibodies (TRAb) are specific for Graves' disease, we evaluated the ability of their levels and of their rate of change to predict long-term prognosis. In our study 216 consecutive patients with newly diagnosed Graves' disease started a therapy with methimazole. Patients were treated until they achieved euthyroidism and TRAb were measured at 6-month intervals throughout a follow up of 120 months. Our study demonstrated that at the onset of hyperthyroidism patients' age, sex, fT4 levels and goiter size had no prognostic value in predicting long-term prognosis (respectively p = 0.79; p = 0.98; p = 0.83; p = 0.89). On the contrary, at the time of diagnosis TRAb titer was a good predictor of the final outcome (p<0.001); a titer equal to (or) more than 46.5 UI/L could identify patients who had never achieved long-term remission with a sensitivity of 52% and a specificity of 78%. Also fall rate of TRAb at 6 months of follow up and after therapy withdrawal were useful to predict the final outcome (p<0.001). At 6 months of follow up the time of therapy withdrawal, a decrease of TRAb lower than 52.3% or even its increase could identify patients who had never achieved permanent remission with a sensitivity of 55% and a specificity of 79.1%. No single parameter among TRAb, satisfactory identified a sub-set of patients who achieved long remission. Accordingly to our data, the best result in predicting long term remission is probably given by the presence of at least one of the two features evaluated at 6 months (TRAb titer and/or percentage of TRAb fall rate), with a sensitivity of 63% and specificity of 88%. TRAb titers evaluated both at the onset of hyperthyroidism that at 6 months of therapy or their rate of fall at 6 months and at ATD withdrawal are predictors of outcome. However, the presence of at least one, between titers of TRAb or their rate of fall at six months, resulted to be the best predictor of remission with the higher sensitivity and specificity.