Context: Hyperthyroidism is common, but opinions regarding optimal therapy with antithyroid drugs or radioiodine (131-I) differ. There are no randomized trials comparing these options in terms of mortality.
Objective: The aim of the study was to determine whether mortality associated with hyperthyroidism varies with treatment administered or other factors.
Design, setting, and patients: We conducted a prospective observational population-based study of 1036 subjects aged ≥ 40 years presenting to a single specialist clinic from 1989-2003 with a first episode of hyperthyroidism who were followed until June 2012.
Interventions: Antithyroid drugs or radioiodine (131-I) were administered.
Main outcome measures: We compared causes of death with age-, sex-, and period-specific mortality in England and Wales and used within-cohort analysis of influence of treatment modality, outcome, disease etiology, severity and control, and comorbidities.
Results: In 12 868 person-years of follow-up, 334 died vs 290.6 expected (standardized mortality ratio [SMR], 1.15 [95% confidence interval (CI),1.03-1.28]; P = .01). Increased all-cause mortality largely reflected increased circulatory deaths (SMR, 1.20 [95% CI, 1.01-1.43]; P = .04). All-cause mortality was increased for the person-years accumulated during thionamide treatment (SMR, 1.30 [95% CI, 1.05-1.61]; P = .02) and after 131-I not associated with hypothyroidism (SMR, 1.24 [95% CI, 1.04-1.46]; P = .01) but not during T₄ replacement for 131-I-induced hypothyroidism (SMR, 0.98 [95% CI, 0.82-1.18]; P = .85). Within-cohort analysis comparing mortality during thionamide treatment showed a similar hazard ratio (HR) for all-cause mortality when 131-I did not result in hypothyroidism (HR, 0.95 [95% CI, 0.70-1.29]), but reduced mortality with 131-I-induced hypothyroidism (HR, 0.70 [95% CI, 0.51-0.96]). Reduced mortality associated with hypothyroidism was seen only in those without significant comorbidities and not in those with other serious diseases. Atrial fibrillation at presentation (P = .02) and an increment of 10 pmol/L in serial free T₄ concentration during follow-up (P = .009) were independently associated with mortality.
Conclusions: Among hyperthyroid subjects aged 40 years or older, mortality was increased during periods of thionamide treatment and after radioiodine not resulting in hypothyroidism, but not during follow-up after radioiodine-induced hypothyroidism. Independent associations of mortality with atrial fibrillation and incomplete biochemical control during treatment indicate potential causative links with poor outcome.