Background: The data regarding goitre prevalence in Germany is based on calculation arising out of dissimilar studies conducted among inhomogeneous study groups. The aim of our study was to collect data towards prevalence of goitre, thyroid size and structure through a prospective nationwide survey conducted using identical examination methods and study protocol.
Patients and method: A total number of 6815 subjects belonging to various age groups and spread over 32 regions in Germany participated in our thyroid ultrasound study conducted with a 7.5 MHz transducer. Information regarding nutrition, use of iodised table salt and iodine containing medicine and/or substances were collected through a questionnaire. The volumetry and age related normal values were followed as per the guidelines set by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Endokrinologie.
Results: Enlarged thyroid was seen in 50% of 18 to 70 year age group, 52% of 11 to 17 year age group and in 21% of children up to 10 years. Focal lesions were detected in 2.5% of subjects below 18 years and in 30% of women and 21% of men over 18 years. A positive correlation between age, thyroid volume and number of thyroid nodules was seen. Up to 83% of the examined subjects admitted to using iodised table salt. Children consuming iodised salt were found to have smaller thyroid glands. No correlation was found between the consumption of iodised salt and thyroid size in the adolescent age group and young adults.
Conclusion: The prevalence of goitre in Germany is higher than it has been reported. The study underlines the insufficiency of the present goitre prophylaxis. Only an iodine prophylaxis (table salt, food products, fodder) backed by legislative measures can bring about a real breakthrough.