Management of simple nodular goiter: current status and future perspectives

Endocr Rev. 2003 Feb;24(1):102-32. doi: 10.1210/er.2002-0016.


The simple nodular goiter, the etiology of which is multifactorial, encompasses the spectrum from the incidental asymptomatic small solitary nodule to the large intrathoracic goiter, causing pressure symptoms as well as cosmetic complaints. Its management is still the cause of considerable controversy. The mainstay in the diagnostic evaluation is related to functional and morphological characterization with serum TSH and (some kind of) imaging. Because malignancy is just as common in patients with a multinodular goiter as patients with a solitary nodule, we support the increasing use of fine-needle aspiration biopsy (cytology). Most patients need no treatment after malignancy is ruled out. In case of cosmetic or pressure symptoms, the choice in multinodular goiter stands between surgery, which is still the first choice, and radioiodine if uptake is adequate. In addition to surgery, the solitary nodule, whether hot or cold, can be treated with percutaneous ethanol injection therapy. If hot, radioiodine is the therapy of choice. Randomized studies are scarce, and the side effects of nonsurgical therapy are coming into focus. Therefore, the use of the optimum option in the individual patient cannot at present be based on evidence. However, we are of the view that levothyroxine, although widely used, should no longer be recommended routinely for this condition. Within a few years, the introduction of recombinant human TSH and laser therapy may profoundly alter the nonsurgical treatment of simple nodular goiter.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy, Needle
  • Calcitonin / blood
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Goiter, Nodular* / diagnosis
  • Goiter, Nodular* / epidemiology
  • Goiter, Nodular* / etiology
  • Goiter, Nodular* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Iodine Radioisotopes / therapeutic use
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative
  • Thyroid Hormones / blood
  • Thyroxine / therapeutic use


  • Iodine Radioisotopes
  • Thyroid Hormones
  • Calcitonin
  • Thyroxine