Sensitive monitoring for thyroid cancer recurrence or persistence includes whole-body radioiodine scanning (WBS) and measurement of serum thyroglobulin (Tg) after endogenous or exogenous thyrotropin (TSH) stimulation. We reviewed our experience using recombinant human thyrotropin (rhTSH) in 83 patients to compare the clinical relevance of a positive WBS and/or Tg. Ten patients had a positive WBS; eight of these patients had activity limited to the thyroid bed. rhTSH-stimulated Tg was 2 ng/mL or more in 25 and 5 ng/mL or more in 13 patients. Of the patients with a negative WBS, 11 of 20 patients with a Tg 2 ng/mL or more and 7 of 9 patients with a Tg 5 ng/mL or more received therapy or further evaluation based on the Tg alone. Conversely, only 1 of 5 patients with a serum Tg less than 2 ng/mL received therapy or further evaluation based on a positive WBS alone. Three of the patients who did not receive therapy or further evaluation, had subsequent negative WBS 10-12 months later, suggesting lack of clinically significant disease. Twenty patients had a negative WBS and serum Tg 2 ng/mL or more. Eleven of 20 patients had a Tg less than 5 ng/mL and 4 of these patients had further evaluation with a neck ultrasound. One patient had a biopsy-proven recurrence (rhTSH-stimulated Tg 4 ng/mL). Subsequent evaluations (> or = 6 months later) have been negative for 8 patients. Of the nine patients with a Tg 5 ng/mL or more and a negative WBS, 7 had further evaluation and 6 of 7 had identified disease. In summary, rhTSH-stimulated WBS and Tg are complementary, but Tg is a more sensitive indicator of disease recurrence or persistence. In our practice, an rhTSH-stimulated Tg greater than 4-5 ng/mL often resulted in further evaluation, while a Tg less than 4 ng/mL rarely resulted in further immediate evaluation.