Autoimmune hyperthyroidism in prepubertal children and adolescents: comparison of clinical and biochemical features at diagnosis and responses to medical therapy

Thyroid. 1997 Oct;7(5):755-60. doi: 10.1089/thy.1997.7.755.


We explored our clinical impression that young children with autoimmune hyperthyroidism are more thyrotoxic at presentation and require a longer course of medical therapy than do adolescents to achieve remission. A retrospective chart review of clinical and biochemical data at presentation and response to therapy in 32 prepubertal (PREPUB) and 68 pubertal (PUB) children and adolescents with autoimmune hyperthyroidism was undertaken. Initial therapy included prophylthiouracil or methimazole in all but 11 patients who chose radioactive iodine (131I); 30 additional patients ultimately chose 131I or surgery after an initial period of medical therapy. In PREPUB children there were significantly longer duration of symptoms (7.8+/-7.7 months) and higher serum concentrations of triiodothyronine (T3) 708+/-330 ng/dL) at presentation than in the PUB group (4.7+/-3.4 months; p < .05) (537+/-197 ng/dL; p < .01). Duration of symptoms correlated negatively with chronologic age (r = -0.24; p < .02) but not with T3 or thyroxine (T4) levels (p = .1). PUB children had significantly higher titers of thyroid microsomal antibodies (positive dilution factor 1:6022+/-14572) than did PREPUB children (1:592+/-1226; p < .05). There was a higher familial incidence of thyroid disease in boys (80%) than in girls (64%) (p < .02). The duration of medical therapy was significantly longer (3.5+/-2.9 years) in PREPUB children compared to the PUB group (2.2+/-1.8 years) (p < .05). Only 17% of PREPUB treated 5.9+/-2.8 years compared with 30% of PUB treated 2.8+/-1.1 years achieved a 1-year remission after stopping antithyroid medication (percentage between groups, p < .01; years of treatment, p < .05). The median time to remission after medical therapy was 8 years in PREPUB and 4 years in PUB (p < .02). PREPUB children continued to remit after prolonged medical therapy (>6 years) whereas PUB patients did not. Total treatment length correlated negatively with chronological age (r = -0.26; p < .05) and positively with T4 and T3 concentrations at diagnosis (r = 0.31; p < .01). The diagnosis of hyperthyroidism is delayed in prepubertal children compared to adolescents. This delay may contribute to the higher T3 levels observed in this group at presentation. Prepubertal children also appear to require longer medical therapy to achieve a lower rate of remission, but do continue to remit after prolonged treatment. These differences in response to therapy should be considered when discussing therapeutic options with the family.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Autoantibodies / blood
  • Autoimmune Diseases* / blood
  • Autoimmune Diseases* / pathology
  • Autoimmune Diseases* / therapy
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperthyroidism* / blood
  • Hyperthyroidism* / pathology
  • Hyperthyroidism* / therapy
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Thyroid Hormones / blood
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Autoantibodies
  • Thyroid Hormones