Background: Despite high sensitivity of current assays for autoantibodies to thyroperoxidase (TPO) and to thyroglobulin (Tg), some hypothyroid patients still present with negative tests for circulating anti-thyroid Abs. These patients usually referred to as having seronegative autoimmune thyroiditis (seronegative CAT) have not been characterized, and definite proof that their clinical phenotype is similar to that of patients with classic chronic autoimmune thyroiditis (CAT) is lacking. Objective: To compare the clinical phenotype of seronegative CAT (SN-CAT) and CAT as diagnosed according to a raised serum level of TSH with negative and positive tests for anti-thyroid Abs respectively. Methods: A case-control retrospective study enrolling 55 patients with SN-CAT and 110 patients with CAT was performed. Serum free triiodothyronine (FT3), free thyroxine (FT4), TSH, Tg Abs, and TPO Abs were measured in all patients. Results: Patients with SN-CAT displayed significantly lower mean levels of TSH (6.6±3.4 vs 10.2±9.8 μU/ml; P=0.009), higher mean FT4 levels (1.1±0.2 vs 0.9±0.2 ng/dl; P=0.0002), and similar FT3 levels when compared with CAT patients. Mean thyroid volume was significantly greater in patients with CAT when compared with SN-CAT patients (11.2±6.5 vs 8.1 ±3.7 ml; P=0.001). Logistic regression demonstrated that FT4 (0.123 (0.019-0.775); (P=0.026)) and thyroid volume (1.243 (1.108-1.394); (P=0.0002)) were significantly and independently related to the diagnosis (CAT/SN-CAT). Patients with SN-CAT had a similar prevalence of thyroid nodules and female gender but a lower prevalence of overt hypothyroidism (5.4 vs 20.9%; P=0.012) as opposed to patients with CAT. Conclusions: These results suggest an autoimmune etiology of SN-CAT, which, however, seems to have a milder clinical course when compared with CAT.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism