Gland Surg. 2020 Feb;9(1):124-135. doi: 10.21037/gs.2019.11.01.


Hyperthyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland produces and secretes inappropriately high amounts of thyroid hormone which can lead to thyrotoxicosis. The prevalence of hyperthyroidism in the United States is approximately 1.2%. There are many different causes of hyperthyroidism, and the most common causes include Graves' disease (GD), toxic multinodular goiter and toxic adenoma. The diagnosis can be made based on clinical findings and confirmed with biochemical tests and imaging techniques including ultrasound and radioactive iodine uptake scans. This condition impacts many different systems of the body including the integument, musculoskeletal, immune, ophthalmic, reproductive, gastrointestinal and cardiovascular systems. It is important to recognize common cardiovascular manifestations such as hypertension and tachycardia and to treat these patients with beta blockers. Early treatment of cardiovascular manifestations along with treatment of the hyperthyroidism can prevent significant cardiovascular events. Management options for hyperthyroidism include anti-thyroid medications, radioactive iodine, and surgery. Anti-thyroid medications are often used temporarily to treat thyrotoxicosis in preparation for more definitive treatment with radioactive iodine or surgery, but in select cases, patients can remain on antithyroid medications long-term. Radioactive iodine is a successful treatment for hyperthyroidism but should not be used in GD with ophthalmic manifestations. Recent studies have shown an increased concern for the development of secondary cancers as a result of radioactive iodine treatment. In the small percentage of patients who are not successfully treated with radioactive iodine, they can undergo re-treatment or surgery. Surgery includes a total thyroidectomy for GD and toxic multinodular goiters and a thyroid lobectomy for toxic adenomas. Surgery should be considered for those who have a concurrent cancer, in pregnancy, for compressive symptoms and in GD with ophthalmic manifestations. Surgery is cost effective with a high-volume surgeon. Preoperatively, patients should be on anti-thyroid medications to establish a euthyroid state and on beta blockers for any cardiovascular manifestations. Thyroid storm is a rare but life-threatening condition that can occur with thyrotoxicosis that must be treated with a multidisciplinary approach and ultimately, definitive treatment of the hyperthyroidism.

Keywords: Graves’ disease (GD); Hyperthyroidism; radioactive iodine (RAI); surgery; toxic adenoma; toxic multinodular goiter.

Publication types

  • Review