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Thyroid function and ultrasonography abnormalities in lithium-treated bipolar patients: A cross-sectional study with healthy controls.


Introduction: Lithium has many effects on thyroid physiology. Although these side effects have been known for a long time, large sample studies of lithium-treated patients using ultrasonography are lacking. The aim of this study is to investigate the detailed thyroid morphologies, hormone levels, and antibodies of lithium-treated patients compared with healthy controls.

Methods: This cross-sectional study involved 84 lithium-treated patients with bipolar disorder and 65 gender and age similar controls who had never been exposed to lithium. Subjects between 18 and 65 years of age were eligible for the study. Venous blood samples were acquired to determine the levels of free thyroxine (fT4), thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), and thyroid antibodies; also, ultrasonographic examinations of the patients' thyroid glands were performed.

Results: There were no statistically significant differences in smoking habits, known thyroid disease, thyroid medication use, familial thyroid disease, fT4 level, autoimmunity, thyroid nodule presence, or Hashimoto's thyroiditis between the lithium and control groups. The median TSH level and thyroid volume were significantly higher in the lithium group. In the lithium group, 14 cases (16.7%) of hypothyroidism, seven cases (8.3%) of subclinical hypothyroidism, and one case (1.2%) of subclinical hyperthyroidism were defined; in the control group, seven cases (10.8%) of hypothyroidism and two cases (3.1%) of subclinical hyperthyroidism were defined. Thyroid dysfunction, goiter parenchymal abnormality, ultrasonographically defined thyroid abnormality, and thyroid disorder were found to be more prevalent in the lithium group. 90% of patients with goiter and 74.3% of patients with ultrasonographic pathologies were euthyroid.

Conclusion: It is important to note that 90% of the patients with goiter were euthyroid. This indicates that monitoring by blood test alone is insufficient. The prevalence rates of 47.6% for goiter and 83.3% for ultrasonographic pathology demonstrate that ultasonographic follow-up may be useful in lithium-treated patients. To determine whether routine ultrasonographic examination is necessary, large sample prospective studies are necessary due to the limitations of this study.

Keywords: Goiter hypothyroidism, lithium, thyroid gland, ultrasonography


Lithium has several effects on thyroid physiology; its potential side effects have been known since its introduction for the treatment of bipolar disorder (1). Although lithium treatment frequently leads to hypothyroidism, it may also cause hyperthyroidism on rare occasions (2).

Lithium is concentrated in the thyroid gland at levels three to four times greater than in plasma (3). It interferes with various steps in the production of thyroid hormones. Influence on the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis has also been observed (2,3). Normally, thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) stimulates a cAMP mechanism to increase the synthesis and release of triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Lithium inhibits cAMP activity resulting in decreased T3 and T4 levels. To maintain homeostasis, TSH hypersecretion occurs. This indicates the onset of hypothyroidism (4). An increase in TSH concentration also results in thyroid enlargement and, thus, goiter (3). Additionally, in vitro studies have shown that lithium increases thyrocyte proliferation by Wnt/[beta] signaling (5,6).

Deniker et al. (7) suggested that lithium-associated hypothyroidism may be related to an immunologic reaction, as thyroid antibody levels have been found to be higher in lithium-treated patients (7). However, some studies found no significant differences in the prevalence of autoimmunity between lithium-treated patients and control groups or the general population (8,9,10). Loviselli et al. (11) suggested that instead of inducing autoimmunity lithium appears to stimulate secretion of immunoglobulins by lymphocytes, triggering a preexisting immune response.

Hypothyroidism and goiter may appear within weeks or years after starting lithium treatment (2,3). The prevalence rates of hypothyroidism range from 3.4% to 52% in various studies (3,4,10,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21). The female to male ratio is approximately five to one. The clinical presentation and biochemical changes in these cases are not different from that seen in other causes of hypothyroidism (3). Goiter occurs in 5.6% to 60% of patients treated with lithium (2). This varying prevalence can be explained by differences in iodine content in the geographical settings of the studies and the use of different diagnostic study techniques (22).

Risk factors for developing hypothyroidism during lithium treatment include female gender raised baseline TSH, family history of thyroid dysfunction in first degree relatives, weight gain, preexisting antibodies, the first two years of treatment (for females only), starting lithium in middle age, iodine-deficient diet, higher lithium levels, rapid cycling, and smoking (2,4,8,17,23,24). Smoking contributes significantly to thyroid size and goiter development (25).

Although the effects of lithium on the thyroid have been known for a long time, data including ultrasonography (USG) assessments are lacking in large-sample studies of lithium-treated patients. In a follow-up study by Lombardi et al. (26) at the end of one year goiter developed in half of 12 patients who had newly started lithium treatment; the appearance of nodular lesions was detected in two of these patients. In the study by Bocchetta et al. (27) which assessed 67 lithium-treated patients, goiter was detected in 39% of the patients, hypoechogenicity was detected in 54% of the patients, a non-homogeneous pattern was detected in 40% of the patients, and nodules were detected in 28% of the patients. In a study by Loviselli et al. (11) which assessed 23 lithium-treated patients, development of goiter was detected in only 1 of the 15 patients who had normal thyroid USG results before lithium treatment; no significant volumetric changes were observed in patients who had goiter prior to lithium treatment. In their cross-sectional study CaykoylQ et al. (28) detected goiter in 38.1% of 42 patients. In a study by Schiemann and Hengst, significantly higher thyroid volume values were found among lithium-treated patients; however similar thyroid echogenicities were detected in both groups when 20 patients were compared with 20 controls (29). In a study by Ozpoyraz et al. (10) which assessed 49 patients and 46 controls, goiter was identified in 59% of the patients and 15% of the control group; goiter was significantly more prevalent in lithium-treated patients (10). A study by Bauer et al. (30) investigated 96 patients receiving lithium treatment because of bipolar major depressive, and schizoaffective disorders and 96 controls; the thyroid volumes were found to be significantly greater and the prevalence of goiter was found to be higher in lithium-treated patients. A study by Ozsoy et al. (31) assessed 14 lithium-naTve bipolar patients, 13 long-term lithium-treated patients, and 12 healthy controls; the mean thyroid volume in the lithium-naTve bipolar patients was found to be significantly higher than that of the controls, and it was also found that the long-term lithium-treated patients had significantly greater thyroid volumes than the lithium-naTve patients and the controls. Overall, ultrasonographic studies were generally used to detect only goiter; detailed ultrasonographic assessments are inadequate.

The aim of this study was to investigate the detailed thyroid morphologies, hormone levels, and antibodies of lithium-treated patients in comparison with healthy controls. In this study, when comparing lithium-treated bipolar patients with healthy controls, it is assumed that the prevalence of thyroid dysfunction, autoimmunity, goiter, parenchymal abnormality, nodules, ultrasonographically defined thyroid abnormality, and thyroid disorder as well as the mean thyroid volume will be greater in lithium-treated patients.


Eighty-four lithium-treated bipolar patients and 65 control subjects who had never been exposed to lithium participated in the study. To be eligible for the study, the subjects were required to be between 18 and 65 years of age and to have no thyroidectomy history. Exclusion criteria were defined as alcohol intake of more than 14 standard drinks for men and more than seven standard drinks for women, substance use or eating disorder comorbidity, clinical thyrotoxicosis, malignancies, and body mass index higher than 30, as these conditions may affect thyroid function tests (32,33,34).

Lithium-treated subjects were recruited from the Affective Disorders Outpatient Unit. All patients had used lithium carbonate for at least three months, were diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and were outpatients. The treatment compliance of the subjects was assured by serum lithium levels within the recommended therapeutic range (at least 0.5 mEq/L) in previous visits. As it is known that valproic acid and carbamazepine treatment can lead to hypothyroidism (35,36), patients using these medications were excluded. Patients who fulfilled the inclusion criteria were invited to participate in the study by telephone. The lithium group consisted of 84 volunteer patients.

The participants in the control group were selected from hospital staff or their relatives; the subjects had never been exposed to lithium in their lives and were not relatives of bipolar patients. The average age was also considered. In addition to the aforementioned exclusion criteria, treatment with psychotropic medication within the last six months was accepted as an exclusion criterion for the control cases. The control group consisted of 26 male and 39 female volunteers.

All participants provided written informed consent. This study was approved by the local ethics committee and the Ethics Committee of Turkish Ministry of Health, and the procedures were in accordance with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975.

The Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis I Disorders, Clinical Version (SCID-I) was used for both patients and the controls. An adaptation and reliability study of SCID-I for Turkish patients has been performed (37). Case report forms providing retrospective data about the subject's psychiatric illnesses, medications used, and smoking status were completed by the investigator. To verify that the information provided about the patient's disease history or use of psychotropic medications was correct, the patient cards were cross-checked.

Venous blood samples were acquired in the morning between 8:00 and 10:00 A.M. to study the subjects' free thyroxine (fT4), TSH, anti-thyroglobuline (anti-Tg), and anti-thyroid peroxidase (anti-TPO) levels. The fT4, TSH, anti-Tg, and anti-TPO levels were measured using a chemiluminescent sequential immunometric assay. The reference value ranges were 0.89-1.76 ng/dL for fT4 and 0.35-5.5 [micro]IU/l for TSH. Normal values were assumed to be <41 for anti-Tg and <36 for anti-TPO.

Thirty control subjects and all lithium-treated patients were referred for ultrasonographic examination. This was performed by two experienced radiologists who were blind to the lithium exposure and blood test results of the participants. During the sonographic examinations, high-resolution color Doppler USG units (Siemens Sonoline Antares and Siemens Acuson Antares scanners; Mountain View, CA, USA) equipped with VFX9-4 and VFXI3-5 multiple (1.5-dimensional) linear-array transducers were used. The frequency bandwidths of these transducers ranged 4-9 and 5-I3 MHz, respectively. In addition to these high-resolution transducers, the USG scanners were equipped with new-generation spatial compound imaging and tissue harmonic imaging technologies that are known to increase lesion conspicuity. During the studies, the ultrasonographic images were acquired and stored digitally.

The cranio-caudal, transverse, and anterior-posterior dimensions of each lobe were measured; by multiplying these values (cm) with each other and then by 0.52, we obtained the volume (cm (3)) of each thyroideal lobe. The sum of the volumes of the two lobes provided the volume of the entire thyroid gland. Volumes greater than 17 cm (3) for females and 24 cm (3) for males were accepted as goiter In addition to volume, parenchymal changes, borders, and the presence of nodules were assessed. In cases of apparent nodules, further examination of the largest nodule in terms of size and internal echo structure was performed.

All the hormonal and ultrasonographic results were evaluated by an endocrinologist. According to the aforementioned reference values for fT4, TSH, anti-Tg, and anti-TPO, participants with low fT4 or participants who received thyroid hormone replacement therapy before the study were defined as "hypothyroid;" participants with normal fT4 and high TSH levels were defined as having "subclinical hypothyroidism;" and participants with normal fT4 and low TSH levels were defined as having "subclinical hyperthyroidism." Any abnormality in fT4 and/or TSH levels or use of thyroid medication was defined as "thyroid dysfunction." If one of the thyroid antibodies (anti-Tg, anti-TPO) was positive, this was considered to be a sign of "autoimmunity". The presence of anti-Tg or anti-TPO with a hypoechogenic diffuse enlarged gland was considered to indicate Hashimoto's thyroiditis (38). For a given patient, the presence of any thyroid dysfunction, thyroid autoimmunity or ultrasonographically defined thyroid abnormality was accepted as a "thyroid disorder".

Data analysis were performed by Statistical Package for Social Sciences version 16 Windows (SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL, USA) The results were expressed as mean and standard deviations (SD) in cases of normal distribution and as median and 25 to 75 percentiles if the distribution was skewed. To compare the quantitative data, Student's t test was used for data with normal distribution, and the Mann-Whitney U test was used for data with skewed distribution; to compare qualitative data, the [chi square] test or Fisher's exact test was used. Pearson correlation analysis was used to assess correlations between continuous variables with normal distribution, and Spearman's rank test was used for variables with skewed distribution. The associations of lithium treatment and other clinical variables with the presence of thyroid disease were assessed using multivariate logistic regression analysis. For this analysis, two age groups were formed using receiver operator characteristic (ROC) curve analysis. A p value of <0.05 was considered to indicate statistical significance.


The sample of this study comprised 84 lithium-treated bipolar patients and 65 control subjects. There were 45 (53.6%) females in lithium group and 39 (46.4%) females in the control group. There were no statistically significant differences in gender (p=0.433; [chi square]=0.616) or age between the groups (Table 1). The clinical variables of the lithium-treated patients are shown in Table 2. Fifty-eight (69%) patients were receiving lithium monotherapy; 3 (3.6%) patients were using lithium and clozapine, 5 (6%) patients were using lithium and lamotrigine, 15 (17.9%) patients were using lithium and quetiapine, and 3 (3.6%) patients were using lithium, quetiapine, and lamotrigine. Details of the treatment durations and doses are given in Table 2.

There was no statistically significant difference between the groups in terms of receiving thyroid replacement therapy or the presence of familial thyroid disease (Table 1).

Thyroid Hormone-Antibody Results

The hormonal analysis data are shown in Table I. In the lithium group, 14 patients (I6.7%) were diagnosed with hypothyroidism, 7 patients (8.3%) were diagnosed with subclinical hypothyroidism, and I patient was diagnosed (I.2%) with subclinical hyperthyroidism. In contrast, in the control group, seven cases (10.8%) of hypothyroidism and two cases (3.1%) of subclinical hyperthyroidism were identified. There was no statistically significant difference between the groups in terms of hypothyroidism prevalence (p=0.305).

There was no statistically significant difference between the groups in terms of anti-TG positivity; however, anti-TPO positivity was significantly more common in the control group (p=0.035) (Table 1).

When we compared the subgroups of lithium-treated patients with thyroid dysfunction with the subgroup without thyroid dysfunction, there were no statistically significant differences in familial thyroid disease, current age, serum lithium level, duration of lithium treatment, age of lithium treatment onset, presence of autoimmunity, or smoking habits. Females were significantly more common in the lithium-treated subgroup with thyroid dysfunction (77.3% vs 45.2%, p=0.009). In contrast, no significant difference was found in terms of gender between the subgroups of the control cases with and without thyroid dysfunction.

Ultrasonographic Results

The ultrasonographic results are shown in tables 3 and 4. No correlations were found between thyroid volume and duration of lithium treatment (rho=0.I94, p=0.077) or serum lithium level (rho=0.023, p=0.837). Among the lithium-treated patients with goiter, one (2.5%) patient was hypothyroid, two (5%) patients were subclinical hypothyroid, one (2.5%) patient was subclinical hyperthyroid and 36 (90%) patients were euthyroid. Comparisons of the lithium-treated patients with and without goiter and with and without parenchymal abnormality in terms of several variables are shown in Table 5.

When we compared the subgroups of lithium-treated patients with and without Hashimoto's thyroiditis, no statistically significant differences were found in terms of age, gender, familial thyroid disease, serum lithium level, duration of lithium treatment, age of lithium treatment onset, or smoking habits. Thyroid dysfunction was significantly more frequent in the Hashimoto group (66.7% vs 21.3%, p=0.009). Among the Hashimoto group, six patients (66.7%) were hypothyroid, and the remaining three patients (33.3%) were euthyroid.

During ultrasonographic examination of the thyroid, if goiter and/or parenchymal abnormality and/or nodules were defined, this ultrasonographic examination was defined as pathologic USG. Fifty-two (74.3%) patients who underwent ultrasonographic pathology were euthyroid. A comparison of the lithium-treated patients with and without ultrasonographic pathology for several variables is shown in Table 6.

Overview of the Results

A comparison of the lithium-treated patients with and without thyroid disorder is shown in Table 6. Female gender was significantly more prevalent in the lithium-treated patients with thyroid disorder compared to those without (p=0.026), while no gender difference was demonstrated in the control group.

The associations of age, gender, smoking, family history of thyroid disease, and lithium treatment with the presence of thyroid disorder were assessed using multivariate logistic regression analysis. First, a cutoff value of the age after which thyroid disorder was more common was calculated using the ROC curve technique. Thus, all the cases in the study series were divided into one of two age groups: the first group consisted of cases that were 39 years old or younger, and the second group consisted of cases older than 39 years. Using backward elimination methodology, lithium treatment (OR=7.34, p<0.001; 95% CI 3.09-17.41), age group (OR=2.54, p<0.05; 95% CI 1.10-5.88), and gender (OR=2.48, p<0.05; 95% CI 1.03-6.00) were demonstrated to have statistically significant associations with the presence of thyroid disorder. Among the entire sample, lithium treatment was found to have the highest association with thyroid disorder.

In summary goiter parenchymal abnormality, sonographically defined thyroid abnormality, thyroid dysfunction, and thyroid disorder were found to be more prevalent in the lithium group. To prevent bias related to the participants who were known to have thyroid disease prior to the study, the statistical analysis was repeated after exclusion of these cases. In this analysis, goiter (57.4% vs 6.7%, p<0.0001), ultrasonographic pathology (83.8% vs 46.7%, p<0.0001), and thyroid disorder (86.8% vs 44.1%, p<0.0001) were again found to be more prevalent in the lithium group. After this exclusion, the significance related to parenchymal abnormality and thyroid dysfunction disappeared. When we excluded patients who used psychotropic medications other than lithium (quetiapine, clozapine, or lamotrigine), goiter (63.8% vs 6.7%, p<0.0001), ultrasonographic pathology (89.4% vs 46.7%, p<0.0001), and thyroid disorder (89.4% vs 44.1%, p<0.0001) were again more prevalent in the lithium group.

All participants with thyroid pathologies are currently being followed up in the Endocrinology Department.


The reported prevalence of lithium-associated hypothyroidism varies widely in the literature, from 3.4% to 52% (3,4,10,12,13,14,15,16,17,18, 19,20,21). Johnston and Eagles reported that when lithium-associated hypothyroidism occurs, it is usually subclinical; however in the present study, 14 (16.7%) cases of hypothyroidism and 7 (8.3%) cases of subclinical hypothyroidism were diagnosed in the lithium group (15). This low rate of subclinical hypothyroidism may be due to the routine evaluation of thyroid function performed every three to six months in our specialized outpatient unit. Thus, the subclinical cases were identified during follow-up prior to the study Hyperthyroidism is rare in lithium-treated patients. In most cases, it occurs after many years of treatment (2,3,39). Consistent with the literature, among 84 patients, only 1 (1.2%) case of subclinical hyperthyroidism was found. This patient had used lithium for 21 years.

Some studies have found higher levels of thyroid antibodies in lithium-treated patients; however, other studies have found a similar prevalence of thyroid antibodies in lithium-treated patients compared to a control group (7,8,9,10). Additionally, Kupka et al. (40) found that thyroid peroxidase antibodies (anti-TPO) are more prevalent in bipolar patients, independent of lithium exposure (40). Unexpectedly, antibody positivity (significant for anti-TPO) was more prevalent in the control group in our study. In another study that was also conducted in our city with healthy volunteers, the prevalence of anti-Tg positivity was 5.8%, that of anti-TPO positivity was 6.9%, and that of autoimmunity was 17.8% (41). The prevalence rates in our healthy control group were much higher than in this study. Incidentally, the prevalence of autoimmunity in the control group was found to be high. Thus, we cannot make a proper comment on these autoimmunity results. There was no statistically significant difference for Hashimoto's thyroiditis, which is considered to be the most common autoimmune disease, between the lithium group and the control group (42). We could not find any study in the literature that investigated the relationship between Hashimoto's thyroiditis and lithium use.

In our study no statistically significant difference in fT4 level was found between the groups; in contrast, the median value for TSH was found to be significantly higher in the lithium group. This finding supports the inhibitory effect of lithium on thyroid function. Also in accordance with the literature, in which enlargement of thyroid gland due to TSH increase has been reported, significantly greater thyroid volumes were found in the lithium group in our study (3). Goiter was much more prevalent in the lithium group. Livingstone and Rampes (2) defined the prevalence of lithium-associated goiter as 5.6% to 60.0% in their review. Our prevalence (47.6%) is near the upper limit of this range. The experience of the radiologists and the use of more sensitive, newly updated high resolution technology may be the cause of the higher prevalence of goiter. Unlike other imaging techniques, USG does not involve radiation exposure. Also, it is fast, relatively inexpensive, and sensitive for screening goiter and other thyroid abnormalities (30,43). In the literature, studies involving detailed thyroid USG investigations of lithium-treated patients are limited. Parenchymal abnormality was significantly more prevalent in lithium-treated patients. These findings necessitate further investigation. Overall, ultrasonographic pathology was much more prevalent in lithium-treated patients (83.3%). Although not all the defined pathologies were clinically important, it is noteworthy that 90% of the patients with goiter were euthyroid. This indicates that follow-up with blood tests is insufficient. However, recommendation of USG during lithium treatment is limited in the treatment guidelines. Bochetta and Loviselli recommend a USG scan before lithium treatment, after the first year and repeated scans at two to three-year intervals (1).

When logistic regression analysis was used to assess the association of several variables with the presence of thyroid disorder, lithium treatment had the highest association. In our study, for thyroid disorder, age greater than 39 years and female gender had lower OR than lithium treatment.

In our study, we found that lithium-treated females had higher prevalences of thyroid dysfunction and thyroid disorder than males. The prevalence of thyroid dysfunction has also been found to be higher in females than males in the general population (44). Ozerdem et al. (45) showed a higher rate of TSH abnormality in female patients with bipolar disorder who were taking lithium (45). Similar to our results, other studies have shown a greater susceptibility to thyroid dysfunction and thyroid disorder among female subjects (I8,2I,44). One study reported that the duration of lithium treatment was related with the development of goiter; however, we did not find such an association in our study (3). Similar to our results, Kraszewska et al. (44) did not show an association between the duration of lithium treatment and thyroid dysfunction.

Thyroid disorder was more prevalent in the lithium group. The high prevalence of 83.9% is important for understanding the general effects of lithium on thyroid gland.

Both the lithium and control groups contained participants with previously diagnosed thyroid disorders. To prevent bias related to these participants, we repeated the analysis after excluding this group. In this analysis, goiter ultrasonographic pathology, and thyroid disorder remained more prevalent in the lithium group.

Our study has some limitations. First, we could not eliminate the possibility that patients had undiagnosed thyroid disorders before lithium treatment onset because their pre-lithium baseline values were absent. Also, because the study was cross-sectional, it was not possible to detect causal relationships; prospective studies are required. As Affective Disorders Outpatient is a tertiary care center, most of the patients were treatment resistant. Thus, the study sample did not include only patients on lithium monotherapy. Among the drugs used by the lithium group, quetiapine has been suggested to induce hypothyroidism (46,47). To minimize the impact of this limitation, we excluded the patients who were not receiving lithium monotherapy; goiter, ultrasonographic pathology, and thyroid disorder remained more prevalent in the lithium group. Some references recommend lowering the upper limit of the normal reference range for TSH to 2.5 [micro]IU/L or 4.5 [micro]IU/L (48,49). In our study because the upper limit was defined as the laboratory reference value (5.5 [micro]IU/L), the probability of patients with TSH values between 2.5 and 5.5 being hypothyroid is a limitation. Another limitation is the number of control subjects who underwent ultrasonographic examination. In addition to this group, another control group containing lithium-nave bipolar patients may be helpful to reveal disease traits.

In conclusion, although it is well known that lithium has adverse effects on thyroid gland, studies involving detailed thyroid USG are limited. Thus, our results represent a contribution to the literature. The prevalence rates of 47.6% for goiter and 83.3% for ultrasonographic pathology emphasize the need for ultrasonographic examination in lithium-treated patients. Considering the limitations of this study, to assess the necessity of routine follow-up with USG, prospective large-sample studies that involve baseline sonographic examination before lithium treatment onset and in which the possible effects of other drugs are evaluated are necessary.

Ethics Committee Approval: Ethics committee approval was received for this study from the ethics committee of Ege University Clinical Research Ethics Committee and from the Ethics Committee of the Turkish Health Ministry.

Informed Consent: Written informed consent was obtained from patients who participated in this study.

Peer-review: Externally peer-reviewed.

Author Contributions: Concept - O.K.T, FA., S.S.O., G.K., G.U.K; Design - O.K.T, F.A., S.S.O., G.K., G.U.K.; Supervision - O.K.T., F.A.; Resource - O.K.T., F.A.; Materials - O.K.T., F.A.; Data Collection and/or Processing - O.K.T., F.A., S.S.O., G.K.; Analysis and/or Interpretation - O.K.T., F.A., S.S.O., G.K., G.U.K.; Literature Search - O.K.T., F.A., S.S.O., G.K., G.U.K.; Writing - O.K.T; Critical Reviews - FA., S.S.O., G.K., G.U.K.

Acknowledgements: The authors thank to Prof Mehmet N Orman from Department of Biostatistics and Medical Informatics, Ege University School of Medicine for his statistical advice and help.

Conflict of Interest: No conflict of interest was declared by the authors.

Financial Disclosure: This study was supported by Ege University Scientific Research Project Grant and Psychiatric Association of Turkey.


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Ozlem KUMAN TUNCEL (1), Fisun AKDENIZ (2), Suha Sureyya OZBEK (3), Gulgun KAVUKCU (3), Gokcen UNAL KOCABAS (4)

(1) Department of Psychiatry, Izmir Katip Celebi University Ataturk Training and Research Hospital, Izmir, Turkey

(2) Psychiatrist, Private Practice, Izmir Turkey

(3) Department of Radiology, Ege University School of Medicine, Izmir Turkey

(4) Department of Endocrinology, Izmir Bozyaka Training and Research Hospital, Izmir Turkey

Correspondence Address: Ozlem Kuman Tuncel, Ege Universitesi Tip Fakultesi, Ruh Sagligi ve Hastaliklari Anabilim Dali, izmir; Turkiye E-mail:
Table 1. Comparison of lithium-treated patients with control subjects
in terms of age and several thyroid variables

                                Lithium (N=84)       Control (N=65)
                                Mean       SD        Mean      SD

Age (years)                     43.1       11.4      39.7      10.4
Serum fT4 (ng/dL)                1.16       0.17      1.19      0.20
Serum TSH ([micro]IU/L)          2.8 (a)    2.0 (a)   1.8 (a)   0.9 (a)
                                N           %        N         %
Known thyroid disease (*)       16         19.0       6         9.2
Thyroid medication use (*)      13         15.5       6         9.2
Familial thyroid disease        29         34.5      18        27.7
Low or high fT4                  1          1.2       4         6.2
Low or high serum TSH           12         14.3       2         3.1
Thyroid dysfunction             22         26.2       9        13.8
Anti-Tg +                        6          7.1       6         9.2
Anti-TPO +                       9         10.7      15        23.1
Autoimmunity                    13         15.5      15        23.1
Thyroid disorder                74         88.1      32        49.2

                            Total (N=149)
                            Mean       SD         Statistics

Age (years)                  41.63     11.1      t=1.876 p=0.063
Serum fT4 (ng/dL)             1.18      0.18     t= -0.958 p=0.340
Serum TSH ([micro]IU/L)       2.4 (a)   1.7 (a)  Z=-2.930 p=0.003
                             N          %         Fisher exact test
Known thyroid disease (*)    22        14.8      p=0.073 (one sided)
Thyroid medication use (*)   19        12.8      p=0.189 (one sided)
Familial thyroid disease     47        31.5      p=0.239 (one sided)
Low or high fT4               5         3.4      p=0.114 (one sided)
Low or high serum TSH        14         9.4      p=0.017 (one sided)
Thyroid dysfunction          31        20.8      p=0.049 (one sided)
Anti-Tg +                    12         8.1      p=0.432 (one sided)
Anti-TPO +                   24        16.1      p=0.035 (one sided)
Autoimmunity                 28        18.8      p=0.167 (one sided)
Thyroid disorder            106        71.1      p<0.0001 (one sided)

N: number; SD: standard deviation; fT4: free thyroxin; TSH: thyroid
stimulating hormone; Tg: thyroglobulin; TPO: thyroid peroxidase
(*) Known thyroid disease or thyroid medication use before the study
(a) :The median values and 25 to 75 percentiles of serum TSH level,
which had a skewed distribution, were 2.11 ([micro]IU/L and I.38 to
3.83 ([micro]IU/L in the lithium group and 1.66 ([micro]IU/L and 1.15
to 2.3 [micro]IU/L in the control group, respectively

Table 2. Clinical variables of the lithium-treated patients

Clinical Variable                   N  Minimum  Maximum  Mean    SD

Duration of illness (months)       84   10       456      213.2  125.3
Age onset for lithium treatment    84   15        59       30.8    9.9
Duration of lithium treatment      84    7       408      139.4   99.5
Lithium dose (mg/day)              84  450      1800     1088.8  294.6
Serum lithium level (mEq/L)        84    0.5       1.1      0.7    0.1
Duration of lamotrigine             8    5        84       48.8   33.6
treatment (months)
Lamotrigine dose (mg/day)           8  125       300      190.6   53.3
Duration of clozapine treatment     3  144       168      156.0   12.0
Clozapine dose (mg/day)             3  100       100      100.0    0.0
Duration of quetiapine             18    4        96       28.6   23.3
treatment (months)
Quetiapine dose (mg/day)           18   12.5     300.0    132.6  108.6

N: number; SD: standard deviation

Table 3. Ultrasonographic results

                         Lithium (N=84)      Control (N=30)
                         25.p  M     75.p    25.p  M     75.p

Thyroid volume (cm (3))  13.3  20.0  28.8     7.9  11.8  15.3
                          N           %       N           %
Goiter                   40          47.6     2           6.7
Parenchymal abnormality  19          22.6     2           6.7
Thyroid nodule           44          52.4    13          43.3
Thyroid pathology in     70          83.3    14          46.7
Hashimoto's thyroiditis   9          10.7     2           6.7

                         Total (N=114)
                         25.p  M     75.p    Statistics

Thyroid volume (cm (3))  11.7  17.5  25.0    Z=-4.573 p<0.0001
                          N           %       Fisher exact test
Goiter                   42          36.8    p<0.0001 (one sided)
Parenchymal abnormality  21          18.4    p=0.042 (one sided)
Thyroid nodule           57          50      p=0.262 (one sided)
Thyroid pathology in     84          73.7    p<0.0001 (one sided)
Hashimoto's thyroiditis  11           9.6    p=0.406 (one sided)

N: number; p: percentile; M: median

Table 4. Ultrasonographic results

                                                      Lithium (N=84)
                                                      N   %

Heterogeneous parenchymal  a) Without nodules         12  10.2
                           b) With nodules             7   8.3
Number of nodules          a) Solitary                15  17.9
                           b) Multiple                29  34.5
Nodule type                a) Cystic                   4   4.8
                           b) Solid isoechoic         12  14.3
                           c) Solid hypoechoic        15  17.9
                           d) Solid hyperechoic        3   3.6
                           e) Mixed                   10  11.9

                           Control (N=30)
                            N     %

Heterogeneous parenchymal   2     6.6
                            0     0
Number of nodules           6    20.0
                            7    23.3
Nodule type                 1     3.3
                            5    16.7
                            3    10.0
                            0     0
                            4    13.3

N: number

Table 5. Characteristics of the subgroup of lithium-treated patients
with goiter and parenchymal abnormalities and comparison with the
remaining lithium-treated patients

                               +               -
                            (N=40)         (N=44)
                          Mean    SD     Mean     SD

Age (years)                42.0   11.7    44.1    11.2
Age of onset of lithium    28.7    9.6    32.8     9.8
treatment (years)
Duration of lithium       146.1   97.8   133.4   101.8
treatment (months)
Serum lithium level         0.69   0.12    0.70    0.14
                            N      %      N       %

Female gender              19     47.5    26      59.1
Familial thyroid disease   14     35.0    15      34.1
Smoking                    16     40.0    19      43.2
Autoimmunity                6     15.0     7      15.9
Thyroid dysfunction         4     10.0    18      40.9


Age (years)               t=0.854 p=0.396
Age of onset of lithium   t=1.900 p=0.061
treatment (years)
Duration of lithium       t=-0.579 p=0.564
treatment (months)
Serum lithium level       t=0.430 p=0.669
                          Fisher exact
                          test (one sided)
Female gender             p=0.199
Familial thyroid disease  p=0.556
Smoking                   p=0.471
Autoimmunity              p=0.575
Thyroid dysfunction       p=0.001

                                 Parenchymal Structure
                             Abnormal          Normal
                             (N=19)            (N=65)
                           Mean    SD      Mean    SD

Age (years)                 44.2    13.2    42.8   11.0
Age of onset of lithium     31.6    10.6    30.6    9.7
treatment (years)
Duration of lithium        144.0   107.5   138.1   97.9
treatment (months)
Serum lithium level          0.72    0.14    0.69   0.13
                            N        %      N       %

Female gender               12      63.2    33     50.8
Familial thyroid disease     9      47.4    20     41.5
Smoking                      8      22.9    27     41.5
Autoimmunity                 7      36.8     6      9.2
Thyroid dysfunction         12      63.2    10     15.4


Age (years)                t=-0.448 p=0.655
Age of onset of lithium    t=-0.373 p=0.710
treatment (years)
Duration of lithium        t=-0.226 p=0.821
treatment (months)
Serum lithium level        t=-0.602 p=0.532
                            Fisher exact
                           test (one sided)
Female gender              p=0.246
Familial thyroid disease   p=0.144
Smoking                    p=0.584
Autoimmunity               p=0.008
Thyroid dysfunction        p<0.0001

N: number; SD: standard deviation

Table 6. Characteristics of the subgroup of lithium-treated patients
with ultrasonographic pathologies and thyroid disorder and comparison
with the remaining lithium-treated patients

                            Ultrasonographic pathology
                              +                 -
                            (N=70)           (N=14)
                           Mean    SD      Mean    SD

Age (years)                 42.8    11.7    44.6   10.4
Age of onset of lithium     30.3     9.7    33.7   10.4
treatment (years)          141.6   101.1   128.6   94.0
Duration of lithium
treatment (months)
Serum lithium level          0.70    0.14    0.68   0.12
                             N        %      N      %

Female gender               39      55.7     6     42.9
Familial thyroid disease    25      35.7     4     28.6
Smoking                     30      42.9     5     35.7
Autoimmunity                13      18.6     0      0
Thyroid dysfunction         18      25.7     4     28.6


Age (years)                t=0.518 p=0.606
Age of onset of lithium    t=0.729 p=0.233
treatment (years)          t=-0.445 p=0.657
Duration of lithium
treatment (months)
Serum lithium level        t=0.797 p=0.561
                           Fisher exact test
                           (one sided)
Female gender              p=0.278
Familial thyroid disease   p=0.427
Smoking                    p=0.426
Autoimmunity               p=0.076
Thyroid dysfunction        p=0.529

                                Thyroid disorder
                                +                   -
                              (N=74)             (N=10)
                            Mean     SD      Mean     SD

Age (years)                  43.0     11.8    44.3     9.0
Age of onset of lithium      30.7     10.0    31.8     9.2
treatment (years)           138.4    101.6   147.2    86.6
Duration of lithium
treatment (months)
Serum lithium level           0.70     0.13    0.67    0.13
                             N         %       N        %

Female gender                43       58.1     2      20.0
Familial thyroid disease     25       33.8     4      40.0
Smoking                      31       41.9     4      40.0
Autoimmunity                 13       17.6     0       0
Thyroid dysfunction          22       29.7     0       0


Age (years)                t=0.346 p=0.730
Age of onset of lithium    t=0.329 p=0.743
treatment (years)          t=0.262 p=0.794
Duration of lithium
treatment (months)
Serum lithium level        t=-0.714 p=0.477
                           Fisher exact test
                           (one sided)
Female gender              p=0.026
Familial thyroid disease   p=0.475
Smoking                    p=0.595
Autoimmunity               p=0.167
Thyroid dysfunction        p=0.039

N: number; SD: standard deviation
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Title Annotation:Research Article
Author:Tuncel, Ozlem Kuman; Akdeniz, Fisun; Ozbek, Suha Sureyya; Kavukcu, Gulgun; Kocabas, Gokcen Unal
Publication:Archives of Neuropsychiatry
Article Type:Report
Date:Jun 1, 2017
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