OBJECTIVES: Although calcitonin (CT) deficiency has been described in chronic autoimmune thyroiditis (CAT) it is unclear at what stage in the disease it develops. We have analysed the Ct secretory responses of patients in two different evolutionary stages of CAT, namely the goitrous and atrophic phases. DESIGN: We studied the Ct response to combined calcium (2 mg/kg) and pentagastrin (0.5 μg/kg) intravenous infusion in 27 patients with CAT and 30 normal adult controls. The cases were divided into two groups. The first comprised eleven women with CAT and goitrous subclinical hypothyroidism (GH), aged 28.6 ± 10.1 years - at diagnosis they had increased thyroid autoantibody titres and cytological features compatible with stages 1 and 2 of Hashimoto's thyroiditis. The second comprised 16 females with CAT and an atrophic thyroid confirmed by ultrasound scan, aged 38.0 ± 9.2 years - these patients were severely hypothyroid at diagnosis and were termed AH (atrophic hypothyroidism). Both groups (GH and AH) received replacement doses of thyroxine sufficient to restore euthyroidism for at least six months before the stimulation tests. Control group (C) consisted of 20 healthy women (A), aged 30.0 ± 9.6 years, and 10 healthy men (B), aged 34.7 ± 8.0 years. Serum Ct was measured by IRMA. The Ct secretory response was related to thyroid size and cytological data, when available. RESULTS: Basal Ct concentrations in groups GH (0.08 ng/l, median) and AH (0.07 ng/l, median) were significantly lower than those of female controls (0.58 ng/l, median). Stimulated Ct peak values in groups GH (0.08 ng/l, median) and AH (0.19 ng/l, median) were significantly lower than those of female controls (13.61 ng/l, median). Also, both basal (2.72 ng/l, median) and stimulated Ct levels (35.73 ng/l, median) in male controls were significantly higher than in female controls given already. A positive correlation between the Ct secretory reserve and thyroid dimensions, evaluated by ultrasound scan, was found only in patients with thyroid atrophy (AH; rs = 0.61, P<0.05). CONCLUSIONS: We have found low basal and stimulated calcitonin values in patients with chronic autoimmune thyroiditis and thyroid enlargement, which represents an early phase of chronic autoimmune thyroiditis. Our data have also confirmed previous findings of deficient calcitonin secretion in advanced stages of chronic autoimmune thyroditis in which thyroid atrophy is usually found. These findings may be associated with C-cell destruction following progressive, nonspecific follicular cell damage caused by lymphocytic infiltration and fibrosis of the gland.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism