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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 75-82

Patterns of clinical management of hypothyroidism in adults: An electronic survey of physicians from the Middle East and Africa

1 Department of Medicine, Dubai Medical College, Dubai, UAE
2 Al Sindan Clinic, Tripoli, Libya
3 Health Plus Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology, Abu Dhabi, UAE
4 Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, UAE

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Salem A Beshyah
P. O. Box 59472, Abu Dhabi
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jdep.jdep_14_21

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Background: Hypothyroidism is a common endocrine disorder that is managed by a wide range of physicians. There are no data on the pattern of clinical management of hypothyroidism in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region. Objectives: We sought to document current practices in the management of primary hypothyroidism in the MEA region and compare these with international recommendations and practices elsewhere. Materials and Methods: A convenience sample of physicians practicing in the MEA in relevant disciplines were invited to take a web-based survey consisting of previously validated multiple-choice questions dealing with investigation and treatment of an index case of overt primary hypothyroidism in general and in three special situations. Results: Out of complete 397 responses, 368 were eligible for inclusion in the analysis. The majority were endocrinologists and internal medicine specialists; 82.2% of them have been in clinical practice for 10 years or more. Overt hypothyroidism would be treated using L-T4 alone by 97.2% of respondents; 1.7% would use a combination of L-T4 and liothyronine (L-T3) therapy. The rate of replacement would be gradual (66.5%), an empiric dose, adjusted to achieve target levels (14.7%); or a calculated full replacement dose (18.5%). A target thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) of 2.0–2.9 mU/L was favored in the index case of overt hypothyroidism (by 34.4%) followed by a target of 3.0–3.9 mU/L (by 26.0%) of respondents. However, a target of 4.0–4.9 mU/L was the most commonly selected TSH target for an octogenarian (by 33.5% of respondents). Persistent hypothyroid symptoms despite achieving a target TSH would prompt testing for other causes by 86.9% of respondents, a change to L-T4 plus L-T3 therapy by 5.8%, and an increase in the thyroid hormone dose by 4.6%. Evaluation of persistent symptoms would include measurements of complete blood count (82.4%), complete metabolic panel (68.7%), morning cortisol (65.3%), Vitamin B12 levels (54.5%), and serum T3 levels (27.9%). Subclinical disease with a TSH 7.8 mU/L would be treated without further justification by 9.0% of respondents, or in the presence of positive thyroid peroxidase antibodies (65.3%), hypothyroid symptoms (65.0%), high low-density lipoprotein (51.7%), or a goiter (36.7%). The TSH target for a newly pregnant patient was 2.0–2.4 mU/L for 28.5% of respondents, with 15.8% preferring a TSH target of 1.5–1.9 mU/L. Thyroid hormone levels would be checked every 4 weeks during pregnancy by 62.9% and every 8 weeks by an additional 17.6%. A hypothyroid patient with a TSH of 0.5 mU/L who becomes pregnant would receive an immediate L-T4 dose increase by only 28.5% of respondents. Conclusions: The survey revealed that (1) nearly exclusive preference for L-T4 alone for therapy, (2) use of age-specific TSH targets for replacement therapy, (3) a low threshold for treating mild thyroid failure, (4) complacent and variable attention to TSH targets in the pregnant and prepregnant woman, and (5) a highly variable approach to both the rate and means of restoring euthyroid status for overt disease. Both alignments with and divergence from guidelines were detected. The results should help in directing focused educational activities in the region, providing a baseline for future monitoring of practices.

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