Preoperative management in patients with Graves’ disease
Graves’ disease is the most frequent cause of hyperthyroidism in iodine-sufficient geographical areas and is characterized by the presence in patients’ serum of autoantibodies directed against the thyrotropin receptor (TRAb) that cause overproduction and release of thyroid hormones. Clinical presentation results from both hyperthyroidism and underlying autoimmunity. The diagnosis is based on characteristic clinical features and biochemical abnormalities. If serum thyrotropin (TSH) is low, serum free thyroxine (FT4) and free triiodothyronine (FT3) concentrations should be measured to distinguish between subclinical (with normal circulating thyroid hormones) and overt hyperthyroidism (with increased circulating thyroid hormones). Graves’ disease is treated with any of three effective and relatively safe initial treatment options: antithyroid drugs (ATDs), radioactive iodine ablation (RAIU), and surgery. Total thyroidectomy is favored in several clinical situations, such as intolerance, ineffectiveness or recurrence after ATD treatment, radioiodine therapy contraindicated, documented or suspected thyroid malignancy, one or more large thyroid nodules, coexisting moderate-to-severe active Graves’ orbitopathy, women planning a pregnancy within 6 months. Whenever surgery is selected as treatment, selection of an expert high-volume thyroid surgeons is fundamental and careful preoperative management is essential to optimize surgical outcomes. Pretreatment with ATDs in order to promptly achieve the euthyroid state is recommended to avoid the risk of precipitating thyroid storm during surgery. For the majority of patients, euthyroidism is achieved after few weeks of ATD treatment. Beta-blockers, such as propranolol, are often added effectively to control hyperthyroid symptoms. Saturated solution of potassium iodide (SSKI) or potassium iodine (Lugol’s solution), given for a short period prior to surgery, in order to reduce both thyroid hormone release and thyroid gland vascularity, is beneficial to decrease intra-operative blood loss.