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Luigi Bartalena

Graves' orbitopathy (GO) is the most frequent and invalidating extrathyroidal expression of Graves' disease. Its incidence and prevalence are, however, low. About three quarters of Graves' patients have no GO at diagnosis, and moderate-to-severe and severe forms represent no more that 5-6% of cases. Progression to severe forms occurs rarely, but it may be caused by risk factors, the most important being smoking and poor control of thyroid dysfunction. Lot of progress has been recently achieved in the understanding of GO pathogenesis, while the disease remains a therapeutic challenge and dilemma. Common treatments for moderate-to-severe and active forms of GO (glucocorticoids and orbital radiotherapy) frequently provide incomplete responses and may be followed by relapse or progression of GO. After the disease has been inactivated by medical treatment, many patients need rehabilitative surgery for residual manifestations (orbital decompression for exophthalmos, squint surgery for extraocular muscle dysfunction, eyelid surgery for eyelid malposition). Novel pharmacological treatments are on the horizon and might target pathogenetic mechanisms of the disease better than glucocorticoids. Clinical evidence concerning their efficacy and safety is presently lacking.

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Luigi Bartalena and Wilmar M. Wiersinga

Standardization of treatment outcomes in randomized clinical trials (RCTs) for active, moderate-to-severe Graves’ orbitopathy (GO) is needed to make results of different RCTs comparable and to draw sound conclusions on the efficacy of a given treatment. Both subjective patient-reported outcome (PRO) and objective clinician-reported outcome (CRO) are important in this regard. In this paper, it is proposed that primary PRO should be the evaluation of treatment-related changes in the quality of life by the use of a validated and disease-specific questionnaire (GO-QoL). The proposed primary CRO is a revised composite index, which includes only objective items and provides an overall assessment of the effects of treatment. Secondary outcomes should also be provided in RCTs to show the effects of treatment on individual features of GO, as well on persistence of activity (by the 7-item Clinical Activity Score), safety, relapses of GO, need for subsequent medical and/or surgical treatments, and other indicators (orbital volume, cytokines, TSH receptor antibody levels). Assessment of the overall response to treatment by primary and secondary outcomes should be made 3 months after treatment completion.

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Michele Marinò, Claudio Marcocci, Paolo Vitti, Luca Chiovato, and Luigi Bartalena

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Luigi Bartalena, Luca Chiovato, Gianfranco Fenzi, Claudio Marocci, Stefano Mariotti, Enio Martino, Furio Pacini, and Paolo Vitti

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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.

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George J. Kahaly, Luigi Bartalena, Lazlo Hegedüs, Laurence Leenhardt, Kris Poppe, and Simon H. Pearce

Graves’ disease (GD) is a systemic autoimmune disorder characterized by the infiltration of thyroid antigen-specific T cells into thyroid-stimulating hormone receptor (TSH-R)-expressing tissues. Stimulatory autoantibodies (Ab) in GD activate the TSH-R leading to thyroid hyperplasia and unregulated thyroid hormone production and secretion. Diagnosis of GD is straightforward in a patient with biochemically confirmed thyrotoxicosis, positive TSH-R-Ab, a hypervascular and hypoechoic thyroid gland (ultrasound), and associated orbitopathy. In GD, measurement of TSH-R-Ab is recommended for an accurate diagnosis/differential diagnosis, prior to stopping antithyroid drug (ATD) treatment and during pregnancy. Graves’ hyperthyroidism is treated by decreasing thyroid hormone synthesis with the use of ATD, or by reducing the amount of thyroid tissue with radioactive iodine (RAI) treatment or total thyroidectomy. Patients with newly diagnosed Graves’ hyperthyroidism are usually medically treated for 12–18 months with methimazole (MMI) as the preferred drug. In children with GD, a 24- to 36-month course of MMI is recommended. Patients with persistently high TSH-R-Ab at 12–18 months can continue MMI treatment, repeating the TSH-R-Ab measurement after an additional 12 months, or opt for therapy with RAI or thyroidectomy. Women treated with MMI should be switched to propylthiouracil when planning pregnancy and during the first trimester of pregnancy. If a patient relapses after completing a course of ATD, definitive treatment is recommended; however, continued long-term low-dose MMI can be considered. Thyroidectomy should be performed by an experienced high-volume thyroid surgeon. RAI is contraindicated in Graves’ patients with active/severe orbitopathy, and steroid prophylaxis is warranted in Graves’ patients with mild/active orbitopathy receiving RAI.

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Luigi Bartalena, Fausto Bogazzi, Luca Chiovato, Alicja Hubalewska-Dydejczyk, Thera P. Links, and Mark Vanderpump

Treatment with amiodarone is associated with changes in thyroid function tests, but also with thyroid dysfunction (amiodarone-induced hypothyroidism, AIH, and amiodarone-induced thyrotoxicosis, AIT). Both AIH and AIT may develop in apparently normal thyroid glands or in the presence of underlying thyroid abnormalities. AIH does not require amiodarone withdrawal, and is treated with levothyroxine replacement if overt, whereas subclinical forms may be followed without treatment. Two main types of AIT are recognized: type 1 AIT (AIT 1), a form of iodine-induced hyperthyroidism occurring in nodular goitres or latent Graves disease, and type 2 AIT (AIT 2), resulting from destructive thyroiditis in a normal thyroid gland. Mixed/indefinite forms exist due to both pathogenic mechanisms. AIT 1 is best treated with thionamides that may be combined for a few weeks with sodium perchlorate to make the thyroid gland more sensitive to thionamides. AIT 2 is treated with oral glucocorticoids. Once euthyroidism has been restored, AIT 2 patients are followed up without treatment, whereas AIT 1 patients should be treated with thyroidectomy or radioiodine. Mixed/indefinite forms of AIT are treated with thionamides. Oral glucocorticoids can be added from the beginning if a precise diagnosis is uncertain, or after a few weeks if response to thionamides alone is poor. The decision to continue or to stop amiodarone in AIT should be individualized in relation to cardiovascular risk stratification and taken jointly by specialist cardiologists and endocrinologists. In the presence of rapidly deteriorating cardiac conditions, emergency thyroidectomy may be required for all forms of AIT.

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Luigi Bartalena, Lelio Baldeschi, Kostas Boboridis, Anja Eckstein, George J. Kahaly, Claudio Marcocci, Petros Perros, Mario Salvi, and Wilmar M. Wiersinga

Graves' orbitopathy (GO) is the main extrathyroidal manifestation of Graves' disease, though severe forms are rare. Management of GO is often suboptimal, largely because available treatments do not target pathogenic mechanisms of the disease. Treatment should rely on a thorough assessment of the activity and severity of GO and its impact on the patient's quality of life. Local measures (artificial tears, ointments and dark glasses) and control of risk factors for progression (smoking and thyroid dysfunction) are recommended for all patients. In mild GO, a watchful strategy is usually sufficient, but a 6-month course of selenium supplementation is effective in improving mild manifestations and preventing progression to more severe forms. High-dose glucocorticoids (GCs), preferably via the intravenous route, are the first line of treatment for moderate-to-severe and active GO. The optimal cumulative dose appears to be 4.5-5 g of methylprednisolone, but higher doses (up to 8 g) can be used for more severe forms. Shared decision-making is recommended for selecting second-line treatments, including a second course of intravenous GCs, oral GCs combined with orbital radiotherapy or cyclosporine, rituximab or watchful waiting. Rehabilitative treatment (orbital decompression surgery, squint surgery or eyelid surgery) is needed in the majority of patients when GO has been conservatively managed and inactivated by immunosuppressive treatment.