Evidence exists that thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) increases with age and lowering the TSH goal in older patients on thyroid hormone may cause over-treatment. Risks of overtreatment include cardiac and skeletal events. We assessed practice patterns regarding TSH goals and explored factors influencing physicians' decision making when managing hypothyroidism.
Members of the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Family Practice, and the Endocrine Society were surveyed to determine goal TSH when treating hypothyroidism.
Fifty-three percent of physicians reported factoring patient age into their decision making when managing hypothyroidism. Patient age was prioritized third (53%), following patient symptoms (69.2%) and cardiac arrhythmias (65.7%). In multivariable analysis, endocrinologists (P = .002), internists (P = .049), physicians in academic settings (P = .003), and high-volume physicians (P = .021) were more likely to consider patient age when determining goal TSH. When presented with scenarios differing in patient gender and age, 90% of physicians targeted a TSH ≤3.0 mIU/L in 30-year-old patients. Fifty-three percent of respondents targeted a TSH ≤3.0 mIU/L in octogenarians, but 90% targeted a TSH >1.5 mIU/L in this group. Regardless of gender, physician-reported TSH goal ranges (0.1 to 0.5, 0.6 to 1.5, 1.6 to 3.0, and 3.1 to 5.0 mIU/L) increased in a direct relationship to patient age (P<.001).
Just over half of physicians consider patient age when determining TSH goal. When presented with scenarios differing in patient age and gender, physicians targeted a higher TSH goal in octogenarians. This may indicate an attempt to avoid overtreatment in this group. Consensus is needed among physicians regarding the role of patient age in hypothyroidism management.
TSH = thyroid-stimulating hormone.