One-year prophylactic treatment of euthyroid Hashimoto's thyroiditis patients with levothyroxine: is there a benefit?

Thyroid. 2001 Mar;11(3):249-55. doi: 10.1089/105072501750159651.


Studies in animal models of spontaneous Hashimoto's autoimmune thyroiditis (HT) show that prophylactic treatment with levothyroxine (LT4) can reduce incidence and degree of lymphocytic infiltration in HT. The aim of the present study was to clarify whether there is a benefit of prophylactic treatment with LT4 in patients with euthyroid HT with respect to the progression of the autoimmune process. Twenty-one patients with euthyroid HT were checked for thyroid function (thyrotropin [TSH], free triiodothyronine [FT3], free thyroxine [FT4]), thyroid volume, antibodies (thyroglobulin [Tg-Ab], thyroid peroxidase [TPO-Ab]), and lymphocyte subsets. Peripheral (PBL) and thyroid-derived lymphocytes (TL) were analyzed by triple color flow cytometry. One-half of the patients with euthyroid HT were treated with LT4 for 1 year (n = 10). The other half (n = 11) were never treated with LT4. TL were obtained by fine-needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB). Thirteen healthy subjects (C) without medical history of thyroid disease served as controls concerning PBL, and patients with non-toxic nodular goiter (NG; n = 10) served as controls concerning TL. Thyroid-derived T-helper cells were found more frequently in euthyroid patients with HT compared to patients with NG (p < 0.01). After 1 year of therapy with LT4, TPO-Abs and B lymphocytes decreased significantly only in the treated group of euthyroid patients with HT (p < 0.05). In contrast, TPO-Abs levels did not change or even increased in untreated euthyroid patients with HT. Thyroid volume did not differ before and after therapy. Prophylactic treatment of euthyroid patients with HT reduced both serological and cellular markers of autoimmune thyroiditis. Therefore, prophylactic LT4 treatment might be useful to stop the progression or even manifestation of the disease. However, the long-term clinical benefit of prophylactic LT4 therapy in euthyroid patients with HT is yet to be established.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autoantibodies / blood
  • B-Lymphocytes
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Iodide Peroxidase / immunology
  • Lymphocyte Count
  • Lymphocyte Subsets
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer
  • Thyroglobulin / immunology
  • Thyroid Gland / pathology
  • Thyroiditis, Autoimmune / drug therapy*
  • Thyroiditis, Autoimmune / immunology
  • Thyroiditis, Autoimmune / pathology
  • Thyrotropin / blood
  • Thyroxine / administration & dosage
  • Thyroxine / therapeutic use*


  • Autoantibodies
  • Thyrotropin
  • Thyroglobulin
  • Iodide Peroxidase
  • Thyroxine