Several symptoms and signs of hyperthyroidism are frequently shared by patients receiving L-T4 suppressive therapy. The aim of this study was to evaluate whether a beta-adrenergic blocking drug could reduce the severity of these symptoms and signs in these patients, as previously reported in patients with hyperthyroidism. Eleven patients (mean age, 42 +/- 11 yr; 10 females and one male) affected with differentiated thyroid carcinoma or nontoxic goiter were selected from a more numerous group of patients receiving suppressive therapy based on the presence of palpitations, increased heart rate, left ventricular systolic function, and other symptoms mimicking exaggerated beta-adrenergic activity. In these patients the cardioselective beta-blocking drug bisoprolol was added to the L-T4 suppressive therapy at a dose of 2.5-5 mg/day. Blood samples were collected for the determination of thyroid hormones and TSH concentration during L-T4 therapy and after 3 and 6 months of associated L-T4 plus bisoprolol therapy. Cardiac function was assessed by clinical evaluation, standard and Holter electrocardiogram, as well as one- and two-dimensional echocardiography. Furthermore, we applied the symptom-rating scale previously used by Klein et al. in hyperthyroid patients to assess the quality of life in our group of patients. Our findings show that the addition of bisoprolol to L-T4 suppressive therapy produces a normalization of heart rate, which was significantly increased during TSH suppressive therapy, and the disappearance of atrial arrhythmias with considerable reduction of palpitations. Furthermore, bisoprolol produced an effective improvement in measures of the hyperthyroid symptom scale, with significant reduction of the mean score. The echocardiographic data showed an increased left ventricular mass index with significantly enhanced systolic function at the basal evaluation. After 6 months of combined L-T4 plus bisoprolol therapy, left ventricular mass index normalized, and the indices of left ventricular systolic function were reduced, with a tendency to normalize. Further studies conducted on a larger series of patients are required to verify the long term implications of cardiac parameter variations on cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Our results, however, show that the addition of bisoprolol to L-T4 suppressive therapy improves the quality of life in those patients with clinical features of enhanced adrenergic activity.