Comparison between TRH-stimulated TSH and basal TSH measurement by a commercial immunoradiometric assay in the management of thyroid disease.Q J Nucl Med. 1996 Jun; 40(2):182-7.QJ
In order to assess the current diagnostic role of the TRH test following the introduction of more sensitive "second generation" TSH assays, we studied a series of 259 outpatients, 237 women and 22 men, mean age 44.7 years (range 12-82), 91 of whom (35%) with untreated simple goiter, 133 (51%) with simple nodular goiter on steady state I-thyroxine treatment, 18 (7%) with overt or subclinical hyperthyroidism and 17 (7%) with overt or subclinical hypothyroidism, compared to a control group of 26 euthyroid healthy subjects. Serum TSH was measured by a commercial immunoradiometric assay (clinical sensitivity 0.1 microU/ml). TSH response to TRH was evaluated 30 minutes after giving 200 micrograms TRH i.v. bolus, the results being analyzed both as absolute increase (delta-TSH=stimulated TSH minus basal TSH) and as relative increase (R-TSH stimulated TSH/basal TSH). Using cut-off values of 0.3-3.2 microU/ml, basal TSH measurement was able to detect hypothyroidism (specificity = 100%) and to exclude hyperthyroidism (sensivity = 96.9%), but failed to accurately prove hyperthyroidism (specificity = 93.4%) and, above all, to exclude hypothyroidism (sensitivity = 35.3%) in our ambulatory patients. The delta-TSH values showed a basal TSH dependent linear increase (r = + 0.87, p < 0.001) both including only patients (n = 139) with basal TSH level in the euthyroidism range and including all patients (n = 223) having TSH responsive to TRH. All the patients with detectable basal TSH level displayed detectable TSH response to TRH, as did 19 (= 23.5%) of 81 patients with undetectable (< 0.1 microU/ml) basal value. In particular: a) for subnormal but detectable basal TSH ranging between 0.1 and 0.2 microU/ml, TSH was always hyporesponsive (delta-TSH < or = 2.5 microU/ml), while between 0.2 and 0.3 microU/ml TSH was hyporesponsive in 72.2% and normoresponsive (delta-TSH > 2.5 and < or = 11.9 microU/ml) in the remaining 27.8%; b) for basal TSH values within the normal range (0.3-3.2 microU/ml). TSH was hyporesponsive in 13.7%, normoresponsive in 74.8% and hyperresponsive in 11.5%; c) for high basal TSH values TSH was always hyperresponsive. The analysis of R TSH showed relatively constant values in the range of euthyroidism and hypothyroidism (m +/- SD: 7.4 +/- 2.3 and 7.7 +/- 3.1, respectively), and a marked differentiation of hyperthyroid patients whose R-TSH values were significantly lower (4.2 +/- 3.4) but had a wide individual variability. Linear regression analysis of basal or stimulated TSH and circulating thyroid hormones showed a close negative relationship, being highly significant between delta-TSH and T4 (r = 0.57, p < 0.001) and delta-TSH and FT4 (r = 0.46, p < 0.001). In conclusion, after the introduction of current second generation TSH immunoradiometric assay, the diagnostic role of the TRH test is greatly limited but not to be excluded: it can provide additional information to that obtained with simple basal TSH measurement in the diagnosis of subclinical hypothyroidism and in the precise evaluation of the degree of TSH suppression in patients with a subnormal basal TSH, either for endogenous thyrotoxicosis or I.-thyroxine treatment.