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Open Access Short Report

Thyroid function tests in patients taking thyroid medication in Germany: Results from the population-based Study of Health in Pomerania (SHIP)

Anke Hannemann1*, Nele Friedrich1, Robin Haring1, Alexander Krebs1, Henry Völzke2, Dietrich Alte2, Matthias Nauck1, Thomas Kohlmann2, Hans-Christof Schober3, Wolfgang Hoffmann2 and Henri Wallaschofski1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine, Ernst-Moritz-Arndt University Greifswald, Ferdinand-Sauerbruch-Straße, 17475 Greifswald, Germany

2 Institute of Community Medicine, Ernst-Moritz-Arndt University Greifswald, Walther-Rathenau-Straße 48, 17487 Greifswald, Germany

3 Department of Internal Medicine I, Klinikum Südstadt Rostock, Südring 81, 18059 Rostock, Germany

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BMC Research Notes 2010, 3:227  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-3-227

Published: 16 August 2010



Studies from iodine-sufficient areas have shown that a high proportion of patients taking medication for thyroid diseases have thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels outside the reference range. Next to patient compliance, inadequate dosing adjustment resulting in under- and over-treatment of thyroid disease is a major cause of poor therapy outcomes. Using thyroid function tests, we aim to measure the proportions of subjects, who are under- or over-treated with thyroid medication in a previously iodine-deficient area.


Data from 266 subjects participating in the population-based Study of Health in Pomerania (SHIP) were analysed. All subjects were taking thyroid medication. Serum TSH levels were measured using immunochemiluminescent procedures. TSH levels of < 0.27 or > 2.15 mIU/L in subjects younger than 50 years and < 0.19 or > 2.09 mIU/L in subjects 50 years and older, were defined as decreased or elevated, according to the established reference range for the specific study area. Our analysis revealed that 56 of 190 (29.5%) subjects treated with thyroxine had TSH levels outside the reference range (10.0% elevated, 19.5% decreased). Of the 31 subjects taking antithyroid drugs, 12 (38.7%) had TSH levels outside the reference range (9.7% elevated, 29.0% decreased). These proportions were lower in the 45 subjects receiving iodine supplementation (2.2% elevated, 8.9% decreased). Among the 3,974 SHIP participants not taking thyroid medication, TSH levels outside the reference range (2.8% elevated, 5.9% decreased) were less frequent.


In concordance with previous studies in iodine-sufficient areas, our results indicate that a considerable number of patients taking thyroid medication are either under- or over-treated. Improved monitoring of these patients' TSH levels, compared to the local reference range, is recommended.