Which thyroid cancer patients need periodic stimulation tests?

Paolo Zanotti-Fregonara, Alexandre Khoury, Françoise Duron, Isabelle Keller, Sophie Christin-Maître, Thierry Kiffel, Marie Elisabeth Toubert, Jean Yves Devaux, Elif Hindié

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Purpose: Recurrences are frequent in thyroid cancer patients and long-term follow-up is therefore necessary. We evaluated the yield of rhTSH stimulation in three groups of patients, classified according to the UICC/TNM risk stratification and the results of first follow-up testing. Methods: The study population comprised 129 patients referred for rhTSH testing. All had undergone first follow-up testing after thyroid hormone withdrawal (off-T4) within 1 year of 131I ablation. Negative first follow-up testing was defined as Tg <2 ng/ml and no neck uptake on 131I diagnostic whole-body scan. Seventy-five patients had stage I thyroid cancer and negative first follow-up testing (group A), 19 had stage I disease and positive first follow-up testing (group B), and 35 had stage II-IV disease (group C). RhTSH stimulation was performed an average of 6 years after first follow-up testing. Results: 131I diagnostic scanning after rhTSH was negative in all 75 group A patients. Only one group A patient had detectable Tg after rhTSH injection (1.5 ng/ml), but Tg had also been detected at baseline in this patient (1.45 ng/ml). Given the absence of a response to stimulation, suggesting an interference, Tg was reassessed with a different technique and proved to be undetectable (<0.1 ng/ml). Stimulation with rhTSH in group B showed residual Tg in seven patients and residual 131I uptake in the thyroid bed in two patients, but none of these patients had signs of disease progression. Five group C patients (14%) had a positive rhTSH test result, and this was suggestive of disease progression in at least two cases. Conclusion: The first follow-up testing is essential for prognostic classification after 131I ablation of thyroid cancer. In stage I patients, undetectable Tg and negative 131I scan 1 year after ablation define a large population of subjects who have a very low risk of recurrence and who do not require further stimulation tests. In contrast, periodic rhTSH stimulation tests appear useful in higher-risk patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)541-546
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2007


  • I whole-body scintigraphy
  • Thyroglobulin
  • Thyroid cancer
  • rhTSH

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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