Measuring TSH receptor antibody to influence treatment choices in Graves’ disease

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TSH receptor antibody (TRAb) plays a key role in the pathogenesis of Graves’ disease (GD), and its levels correlate with the clinical course. The second- and third-generation TRAb assays have >95% sensitivity and specificity for the diagnosis of GD and have improved the utility of TRAb to predict relapse. TRAb levels decline with antithyroid drug (ATD) therapy and after thyroidectomy. Its level increases for a year following radioactive iodine (RAI) therapy, with a gradual fall thereafter. TRAb level >12 IU/l at diagnosis of GD is associated with 60% risk of relapse at 2 years and 84% at 4 years. The prediction of risk of relapse improves further to >90% with TRAb >7·5 IU/l at 12 months or >3·85 IU/l at cessation of ATD therapy. TRAb tests are not expensive, and hence, TRAb measurements at presentation, after 12 months and/or 18 months (at cessation) of ATD therapy, could potentially guide treatment choices in GD. Elevated TRAb favours definitive treatment in the form of RAI or thyroidectomy, depending on the presence or absence of moderate-to-severe Graves’ ophthalmopathy (GO) and the ability to comply with radiation protection requirements. Use of ATDs in early pregnancy is associated with increased risk of congenital anomalies; early ablative treatment (RAI/surgery) should be considered in women of childbearing age at higher risk of relapse of GD. TRAb ≥5 IU/l in pregnant women with current or previously treated GD is associated with increased risk of foetal and neonatal thyrotoxicosis, and hence needs close monitoring. TRAb levels parallel the course of GO, and elevated TRAb is an indication for steroid prophylaxis to prevent progression of GO with RAI therapy.

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