Diagnosis and Treatment of Solitary thyroid nodule – Study and Evaluation in Portugal

Helena Vilar, Francisco Carrilho, Fátima Borges, Edward Limbert, Fernando Rodrigues, Maria João Oliveira, João Jácome De Castro, . Grupo de Estudos da Tiróide


Introduction – The best diagnostic and treatment strategy for an approach to the nodular thyroid disease continues to be a controversial issue. Objectives – The aim of this study was to characterise medical practice in the diagnosis and treatment of nodular thyroid disease by endocrinologists and surgeons in Portugal in 2002. Methods – A questionnaire based on that used by the European Thyroid Association and the American Thyroid Association was drawn up. The questionnaire, based on a well-defined index case, was circulated by the Portuguese Endocrinology Society to endocrinologists and surgeons: 42 year-old woman with solitary thyroid nodule measuring 2 x 3 cm, with no history of malfunction or painful symptoms. Each doctor was asked to reply as to the adopted diagnosis and therapy procedures for the index case. Eleven variations to the original case were proposed in order to evaluate the alterations for each variation. Results – 1492 questionnaires were sent out, 163 to endocrinologists and 1329 to surgeons. A total of 104 were returned. The global response rate was 7%. The response rate for endocrinologists was 27% and 4.5% for surgeons. Of the 104 questionnaires returned, 42% were from endocrinologists and 58% from surgeons. Concerning tests prescribed, surgeons would use more tests than endocrinologists for the index case. The main differences in laboratory terms were the higher number of prescriptions for total T4 and T3 and thyroglobulin by surgeons and more prescriptions for AATPO by endocrinologists. The average number of tests was 4.6, 4.1 for endocrinologists and 5.1 for surgeons. Relative to imaging and cytology, 32% of doctors advocated a scintigraphy to diagnose the index case, with no significant differences between endocrinologists and surgeons. Ultrasonography was used by over 85% of respondents. 90% prescribed a cytology, 83% guided by palpation and 18% ultrasonography-guided. Concerning treatment, 33% of doctors advocated levothyroxin treatment; surgery was advocated by 16.3% of endocrinologists and 36.6% of surgeons. Meanwhile, the majority of doctors (68%) would opt for no treatment and simply maintain the patient under surveillance. Conclusions – There are important differences in the approach to nodular thyroid disease among the various doctors and specialists, which highlight the difficulty in achieving a diagnostic and therapeutic consensus.

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