What is the role of amiodarone in the pathophysiology of thyroid dysfunction?

Updated: Aug 28, 2020
  • Author: Mini Gopalan, MD; Chief Editor: Romesh Khardori, MD, PhD, FACP  more...
  • Print
Answer

Amiodarone causes a wide spectrum of effects on the thyroid.

  • Amiodarone inhibits type 1 5'-deiodinase enzyme activity, thereby decreasing the peripheral conversion of T4 to triiodothyronine (T3) and reducing the clearance of both T4 and reverse T3 (rT3). Consequently, the serum levels of T4 and rT3 increase and the serum levels of T3 decrease by 20-25%.

  • Amiodarone inhibits entry of T4 and T3 into the peripheral tissue. Serum T4 levels increase by an average of 40% above pretreatment levels after 1-4 months of treatment with amiodarone. This, in itself, does not constitute evidence of hyperthyroidism (thyrotoxicosis).

  • Inhibition of type 2 5'-deiodinase enzyme activity in the pituitary due to feedback regulation is seen in the first 1-3 months and leads to an increase in thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels. This is not an indication for T4 replacement in these patients. Serum TSH levels return to normal in 2-3 months as T4 concentrations rise sufficiently to overcome the partial block in T3 production. The response of TSH to thyroid-releasing hormone (TRH) may be reduced.

  • Amiodarone and its metabolites may have a direct cytotoxic effect on the thyroid follicular cells, which causes a destructive thyroiditis.

  • Amiodarone and its metabolite desethylamiodarone can act as a competitive antagonist of T3 at the cardiac cellular level.

In summary, serum T4 levels rise by 20-40% during the first month of therapy and then gradually fall toward high normal. Serum T3 levels decrease by up to 30% within the first few weeks of therapy and remain slightly decreased or low normal. Serum rT3 levels increase by 20% soon afterward and remain increased. Serum thyrotropin (TSH) levels usually rise after the start of therapy but return to normal in 2-3 months.

Two forms of AIT have been described. Type 1 usually affects patients with latent or preexisting thyroid disorders and is more common in areas of low iodine intake. Type 1 is caused by iodine-induced excess thyroid hormone synthesis and release (Jod-Basedow phenomenon). Type 2 occurs in patients with a previously normal thyroid gland and is caused by a destructive thyroiditis that leads to the release of preformed thyroid hormones from the damaged thyroid follicular cells. However, mixed forms of AIT may occur in an abnormal thyroid gland, with features of destructive processes and iodine excess.

The most likely mechanisms of AIH are an enhanced susceptibility to the inhibitory effect of iodine on thyroid hormone synthesis and the inability of the thyroid gland to escape from the Wolff-Chaikoff effect after an iodine load in patients with preexisting Hashimoto thyroiditis. In addition, iodine-induced damage to the thyroid follicles may accelerate the natural trend of Hashimoto thyroiditis toward hypothyroidism. Patients without underlying thyroid abnormalities are postulated to have subtle defects in iodine organification that lead to decreased thyroid hormone synthesis, peripheral down regulation of thyroid hormone receptors, and subsequent hypothyroidism.


Did this answer your question?
Additional feedback? (Optional)
Thank you for your feedback!