Background Recombinant human thyrotropin (rhTSH) can be used to enhance radioiodine therapy for shrinking multinodular goitre. The aim of this meta-analysis was to compare the effectiveness of rhTSH pretreatment and radioiodine therapy with that of radioiodine alone for treating benign nodular goitre. Methods The PubMed, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, Scopus and ClinicalTrials.gov databases were searched to identify studies published before September 2014. A meta-analysis was performed to calculate the pooled effect size using random-effects models. The primary outcome was the reduction in thyroid volume. Secondary outcomes included thyroid function, extent of tracheal compression, radioactive iodine uptake, incidence of hypothyroidism and other complications. Results Nine RCTs including 416 patients were selected. The reductions in thyroid volume were significantly greater in the rhTSH pretreatment groups than those in the radioiodine alone groups at 12 months (weighted mean difference: 14·42%; 95% CI: 4·51-24·34% in high-dose rhTSH vs radioiodine alone; weighted mean difference: 19·66%; 95% CI: 3·67-35·65% in low-dose rhTSH vs radioiodine alone). The incidence of hypothyroidism in the high-dose rhTSH groups was significantly higher than that in the radioiodine alone groups. No significant difference in the incidence of hypothyroidism occurred between the low-dose rhTSH groups and the radioiodine alone groups. Conclusions The overall results indicated that using rhTSH before radioiodine therapy resulted in a greater thyroid volume reduction than radioiodine therapy alone. An increased incidence of hypothyroidism was observed in patients receiving high-dose rhTSH. Low-dose rhTSH before radioiodine therapy is more efficacious than radioiodine therapy alone for treating nontoxic benign thyroid nodules.
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