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Tamas Solymosi, Laszlo Hegedüs, Steen Joop Bonnema, Andrea Frasoldati, Laszlo Jambor, Gabor Laszlo Kovacs, Enrico Papini, Karoly Rucz, Gilles Russ, Zsolt Karanyi, and Endre V. Nagy

Background: Thyroid nodule image reporting and data systems (TIRADS) provide the indications for fine-needle aspiration (FNA) based on a combination of nodule sonographic features and size. We compared the TIRADS-based recommendations for FNA with those based on the personal expertise of qualified US investigators in the diagnosis of thyroid malignancy. Methods: Seven highly experienced ultrasound (US) investigators from 4 countries evaluated, online, the US video recordings of 123 histologically verified thyroid nodules. Technical resources provided the operators with a diagnostic approach close to the real-world practice. Altogether, 4,305 TIRADS scores were computed. The combined diagnostic potential of TIRADS (TIRSYS) and the personal recommendations of the investigators (PERS) were compared against 3 possible goals: to recognize all malignant lesions (allCA), nonpapillary plus non-pT1 papillary cancers (nPnT1PCA), or stage II-IV cancers (st2-4CA). Results: For allCA and nPnT1PCA, TIRSYS had lower sensitivity than PERS (69.8 vs. 87.2 and 83.5 vs. 92.6%, respectively, p <0.01), while in st2-4CA the sensitivities were the same (99.1 vs. 98.6% and TIRSYS vs. PERS, respectively). TIRSYS had a higher specificity than PERS in all 3 types of cancers (p < 0.001). PERS recommended FNA in a similar proportion of lesions smaller or larger than 1 cm (76.9 vs. 82.7%; ns). Conclusions: Recommendations for FNA based on the investigators’ US expertise demonstrated a better sensitivity for thyroid cancer in the 2 best prognostic groups, while TIRADS methodology showed superior specificity over the full prognostic range of cancers. Thus, personal experience provided more accurate diagnoses of malignancy, missing a lower number of small thyroid cancers, but the TIRADS approach resulted in a similar accuracy for the diagnosis of potentially aggressive lesions while sparing a relevant number of FNAs. Until it is not clearly stated what the goal of the US evaluation is, that is to diagnose all or only clinically relevant thyroid cancers, it cannot be determined whether one diagnostic approach is superior to the other for recommending FNA.

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Roberto Negro, Laszlo Hegedüs, Roberto Attanasio, Enrico Papini, and Kristian H. Winther

Objective: Selenium (Se) supplementation has been suggested in the treatment of Graves’ disease (GD). We sought to investigate Se prescription patterns for GD across European countries. Methods: Members of the European Thyroid Association were invited to participate in an online survey investigating the use of Se in GD either without or with orbitopathy (GO). Of 872 invited members, 244 (28%) completed the survey. After exclusion of basic scientists and non-European members, 197 responses were retrieved out of clinical trials (nearly half of clinician members), of whom 61 do not use Se. Thus, 136 respondents remained for further analyses. Results: Among the 136 analyzed respondents, most (64.7%) were not aware of the Se status in their populations, did not assess Se levels (78.7%), nor considered iodine status (74.3%). In GD without GO, 38.2% recommend Se supplementation (“sometimes” [27.2%], “frequently” [5.9%] or “always” [5.1%]). When GO occurs, 94.1% recommend Se supplementation (“sometimes” [39%], “frequently” [30.1%] or “always” [25%]). Of these, 60.1% recommend Se as an alternative to watchful waiting in patients with mild ocular involvement and 44.9% as an adjuvant to the established treatment modalities in patients with moderate to severe ocular involvement. Conclusions: In Graves’ hyperthyroidism without GO, 38.2% of ETA (European Thyroid Association) members recommend Se supplementation. Conversely, Se is recommended by the majority of respondents in GO, both in patients with mild and moderate to severe ocular involvement. This clinical practice is partially in disagreement with current European treatment guidelines that recommend Se as a 6-month treatment in mild GO only.

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Laszlo Hegedüs, Steen J. Bonnema, and Kristian H. Winther

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Enrico Papini, Hervé Monpeyssen, Andrea Frasoldati, and Laszlo Hegedüs

Standard therapeutic approaches for benign thyroid lesions that warrant intervention are surgery for cold and either surgery or radioiodine for autonomously functioning thyroid nodules (AFTN). Image-guided thermal ablation (TA) procedures are increasingly proposed as therapy options for selected clinical conditions. Due to mounting scientific evidence and widening availability, ETA considered it appropriate to develop guidelines for the use of TA in adult patients. TA procedures are well tolerated, but a dedicated training of the operators is required and information on possible complications needs to be shared with the patients. The following factors should be considered when weighing between observation, surgery, and TA for benign thyroid nodules. In solid non-hyperfunctioning nodules, TA induces a decrease in thyroid nodule volume, paralleled by improvement in symptoms. Nodule re-growth is possible over time and may necessitate repeat treatment, or surgery, in a dialogue with the patient. In AFTN, radioactive iodine is the first-line treatment, but TA may be considered in young patients with small AFTN due to higher probability of restoring normal thyroid function and avoidance of irradiation. In cystic nodules, ethanol ablation (EA) is the most effective and least expensive treatment. TA may be considered for cystic lesions that relapse after EA or have a significant residual solid component following drainage and EA. TA should be restricted to benign lesions that cause symptoms or cosmetic concern. Presently, laser and radiofrequency ablation are the most thoroughly assessed techniques, with similar satisfactory clinical results. Microwaves and high-intensity focused ultrasound therapy options remain to be fully evaluated.

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Laszlo Hegedüs, Andrea Frasoldati, Roberto Negro, and Enrico Papini

Objective: Image-guided interventional ultrasound (US) techniques represent diagnostic and therapeutic tools for non-surgical management of thyroid nodular disease. We sought to investigate the attitude of European Thyroid Association (ETA) members towards the use of minimally invasive techniques (MIT) in diagnosis/therapy of symptomatic nodular goitre. Methods: ETA members were invited to participate in an online survey investigating the use of MIT in benign and malignant thyroid nodular disease. Of 865 invited members, 221 (25.5%) completed the survey. The respondents were from 40 countries; 139 (74.7%) were from European countries. Results: Respondents personally performed thyroid US (91.6%), Fine needle aspiration (FNA; 75.3%), ethanol ablation (EA; 22.1%), core needle biopsy (CNB; 11%) and thermal treatments (4.8%). When skills and/or technology were unavailable, only 13.4% referred patients “often” or “always” to other centres with specific expertise in this field. Surgery was the preferred first option in patients with recurrent cysts, 4.0 cm benign nodules, local (radioiodine-avid or non-avid) lymph node metastases, or papillary cancers <1.0 cm. For autonomously functioning nodules radioactive iodine treatment was the preferred choice, followed by surgery. Thermal ablation (TA) was the preferred option only for a 4 cm benign nodule in old patients with comorbidities. Conclusions: US, US-guided FNA and surgery were available to nearly all respondents, while MIT was not. CNB and EA were employed only by about 1/3 of the respondents and TA procedures were available and personally performed only by a minority. For most thyroid lesions, surgery was the preferred option versus thermal therapies. The ETA needs to develop guidelines and establish teaching to overcome geographic inequality and promote the use of MIT as a valid therapy option in appropriate cases.

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Gilles Russ, Sophie Leboulleux, Laurence Leenhardt, and Laszlo Hegedüs

A thyroid incidentaloma is an unexpected, asymptomatic thyroid tumor fortuitously discovered during the investigation of an unrelated condition. The prevalence rate is 67% with ultrasonography (US) imaging, 15% with computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the neck, and 1-2% with fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) positron emission tomography. In the absence of a history of external beam radiation or familial medullary thyroid cancer, the risk of malignancy ranges between 5 and 13% when discovered with US, CT or MRI, but is much higher if based on focal FDG uptake (30%). All patients with a thyroid incidentaloma, independent of the mode of detection, should undergo a dedicated neck US with risk stratification: US imaging allows a quantitative risk stratification of malignancy in thyroid nodules, named ‘reporting system' or ‘TIRADS' (thyroid imaging reporting and data system). The reported sensitivity ranges from 87 to 95% for the detection of carcinomas and the negative predictive value from 88 to 99.8%. We suggest that the indications for fine-needle aspiration be based mainly on size and US risk stratification. However, the diagnosis and workup of thyroid incidentalomas leads to superfluous surgery for benign conditions, and excess diagnosis and treatment of papillary microcarcinomas, the vast majority of which would cause no harm. Recognizing this must form the basis of any decision as to supplementary investigations and whether to offer therapy, in a close dialogue between patient and physician. The current use of minimally invasive nonsurgical ablation options, as alternatives to surgery, is highlighted.

Free access

Kristian Hillert Winther, Enrico Papini, Roberto Attanasio, Roberto Negro, and Laszlo Hegedüs

Objective: To investigate clinical practice regarding the use of selenium supplementation in patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (HT) among members of the European Thyroid Association (ETA). Methods: ETA members were invited to participate in an online survey investigating the use of selenium supplementation across the spectrum of benign thyroid diseases. Of 872 invited members, 242 (28%) completed the survey. After exclusion of basic scientists and non-European members, survey data from 212 respondents were eligible for further analyses. Responses from 65 (31%) individuals who did not at all recommend selenium, or only considered its use in the setting of a clinical trial, were not included in the final analysis of survey data from 147 respondents. ­ Results: While only a minority of respondents (29 of 147, 20%) stated that the available evidence warrants the use of Se in patients with HT, a statistically significant majority (95 of 147; 65%, p < 0.001) used Se occasionally or routinely. Se was predominantly recommended for patients with HT not receiving LT4 (102 of 147; 69%) to reduce circulating thyroid autoantibody levels. Very few respondents routinely recommended Se to pregnant patients with HT. Conclusions: A minority of responding ETA members stated that the available evidence warrants the use of Se in HT, but a majority recommended it to some extent, especially to patients not yet receiving LT4. This is questionable, and selenium is not recommended to patients with HT according to current ETA guidelines. Ongoing and future trials may lead to the reversal of current medical practice.

Free access

Bernadette Biondi, Luigi Bartalena, David S. Cooper, Laszlo Hegedüs, Peter Laurberg, and George J. Kahaly

Endogenous subclinical hyperthyroidism (SHyper) is caused by Graves' disease, autonomously functioning thyroid nodules and multinodular goitre. Its diagnosis is based on a persistently subnormal serum thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) level with free thyroid hormone levels within their respective reference intervals. In 2014 the European Thyroid Association Executive Committee, given the controversies regarding the treatment of Endo SHyper, formed a task force to develop clinical practice guidelines based on the principles of evidence-based medicine. The task force recognized that recent meta-analyses, including those based on large prospective cohort studies, indicate that SHyper is associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease mortality, incident atrial fibrillation, heart failure, fractures and excess mortality in patients with serum TSH levels <0.1 mIU/l (grade 2 SHyper). Therefore, despite the absence of randomized prospective trials, there is evidence that treatment is indicated in patients older than 65 years with grade 2 SHyper to potentially avoid these serious cardiovascular events, fractures and the risk of progression to overt hyperthyroidism. Treatment could be considered in patients older than 65 years with TSH levels 0.1-0.39 mIU/l (grade 1 SHyper) because of their increased risk of atrial fibrillation, and might also be reasonable in younger (<65 years) symptomatic patients with grade 2 SHyper because of the risk of progression, especially in the presence of symptoms and/or underlying risk factors or co-morbidity. Finally, the task force concluded that there are no data to support treating SHyper in younger asymptomatic patients with grade 1 SHyper. These patients should be followed without treatment due to the low risk of progression to overt hyperthyroidism and the weaker evidence for adverse health outcomes.

Free access

Roberto Negro, Roberto Attanasio, Endre V. Nagy, Enrico Papini, Petros Perros, and Laszlo Hegedüs

Background: The incidence and prevalence of hypothyroidism are increasing and the threshold for the treatment of hypothyroid as well as individuals without evident thyroid disease with thyroid hormone is declining. Objective: To investigate endocrinologists’ use of thyroid hormones in hypothyroid and euthyroid patients in Italy, a country where different formulations of levothyroxine (LT4; tablet, liquid solution and soft-gel capsule) are available on the market. Methods: Members of the Associazione Medici Endocrinologi (Italian Association of Clinical Endocrinologists) were invited to participate in a web-based survey investigating the topic. Results: A total of 797 of 2,028 (39.3%) members completed all the sections of the survey; 98.7% declared that the treatment of choice for hypothyroidism is LT4. A significant minority (37.3%) indicated that LT4 may be considered in infertile euthyroid women seeking pregnancy and harbouring positive thyroperoxidase antibodies (TPOAb) and in goitre increasing in size (18.1%). LT4 + LT3 was considered by 43.2% for LT4-replaced patients and normal TSH, if they reported persistent symptoms. High percentages of respondents chose LT4 in a liquid solution or soft-gel capsules when taken together with other drugs interfering with LT4 absorption (81.8%), in patients with a history of celiac disease, malabsorption, lactose intolerance, intolerance to common excipients (96.6%), or unexplained poor biochemical control of hypothyroidism (74.4%), or in patients not able to adhere to ingesting LT4 fasted and/or separated from food/drink (98.9%). In total, 43.6% of responders would use LT4 in a liquid solution or soft-gel capsules for hypothyroid patients with biochemical euthyroidism on LT4, who had persistent symptoms. Conclusions: The preferred treatment for hypothyroidism is LT4; LT3 + LT4 combination treatment is mainly considered in patients with persistent symptoms. A significant minority would offer LT4 to euthyroid women with positive TPOAb and infertility and to euthyroid patients with progressive simple goitre. Alternative LT4 formulations like liquid solution or soft-gel capsules are largely reserved for specific conditions (interfering drugs, actual or suspected malabsorption, inability to take LT4 in the fasting state, unexplained poor biochemical control of hypothyroidism).

Open access

Tamas Solymosi, Laszlo Hegedűs, Steen J Bonnema, Andrea Frasoldati, Laszlo Jambor, Zsolt Karanyi, Gabor L Kovacs, Enrico Papini, Karoly Rucz, Gilles Russ, and Endre V Nagy


Thyroid nodule ultrasound characteristics are used as an indication for fine-needle aspiration cytology, usually as the basis for Thyroid Imaging Reporting and Data System (TIRADS) score calculation. Few studies on interobserver variation are available, all of which are based on analysis of preselected still ultrasound images and often lack surgical confirmation.


After the blinded online evaluation of video recordings of the ultrasound examinations of 47 consecutive malignant and 76 consecutive benign thyroid lesions, 7 experts from 7 thyroid centers answered 17 TIRADS-related questions. Surgical histology was the reference standard. Interobserver variations of each ultrasound characteristic were compared using Gwet’s AC1 inter-rater coefficients; higher values mean better concordance, the maximum being 1.0.


On a scale from 0.0 to 1.0, the Gwet’s AC1 values were 0.34, 0.53, 0.72, and 0.79 for the four most important features in decision-making, i.e. irregular margins, microcalcifications, echogenicity, and extrathyroidal extension, respectively. The concordance in the discrimination between mildly/moderately and very hypoechogenic nodules was 0.17. The smaller the nodule size the better the agreement in echogenicity, and the larger the nodule size the better the agreement on the presence of microcalcifications. Extrathyroidal extension was correctly identified in just 45.8% of the cases.


Examination of video recordings, closely simulating the real-world situation, revealed substantial interobserver variation in the interpretation of each of the four most important ultrasound characteristics. In view of the importance for the management of thyroid nodules, unambiguous and widely accepted definitions of each nodule characteristic are warranted, although it remains to be investigated whether this diminishes observer variation.