2012 Volume 51 Issue 17 Pages 2285-2290
Objective β-adrenergic antagonists (β-blockers) are often used to attenuate the hyperadrenergic symptoms of Graves' disease (GD), including palpitation. Although β-blockers reduce the heart rate, cardiac output and oxygen consumption, no firm evidence exists regarding the effects of combined therapy with β-blockers and anti-thyroid drugs. The objective is to elucidate the effects of β-blockers on anti-thyroid drug therapy in GD.
Methods Patients newly diagnosed with mild GD were randomly assigned to receive methimazole with or without β-blockers in a prospective multi-center survey. The heart rate and thyroid function were measured and the quality of life was assessed using original and SF-36 questionnaires at 0 and 4 weeks.
Results A total of 28 patients were enrolled in the study. Fourteen patients (one man, 13 women) were randomly assigned to the group treated with β-blockers and 14 patients (one man, 13 women) were randomly assigned to the group not treated with β-blockers. Although no significant differences in the improvement of thyroid function were observed between the two groups, the heart rates improved more significantly in the group treated with β-blockers. Specific symptoms, such as easy fatigability and shortness of breath, also improved more significantly with the β-blocker treatment. In addition, 'physical functioning' assessed with the SF-36 questionnaires significantly improved only in the group treated with β-blockers.
Conclusion Although β-blockers may not reinforce the effects of anti-thyroid drugs on thyroid function, at least during the course of one month, they are effective in reducing heart rates and ameliorating specific symptoms in patients with mild GD.