Thyroid Scintigraphy Findings in 2096 Cats with Hyperthyroidism

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Peterson M.E. and Broome M.R.

Vet Radiol Ultrasound, 2015. 56(1): p.84-95.


Thyroid scintigraphy is currently the reference standard for diagnosing and staging cats with hyperthyroidism, but few studies describing the scintigraphic characteristics in a large number of cats have been reported. The objective of this study was to better characterize thyroid scintigraphy findings by evaluating 2096 consecutive cats with hyperthyroidism that were referred over a 3.5-year period. Of these cats, 2068 (98.7%) had a high thyroid-to-salivary ratio (>1.5), whereas 2014 (96.1%) were found to have a high thyroid-to-background ratio (>6.1). When the patterns of the cats’ thyroid disease were recorded, 665 (31.7%) had unilateral disease, 1060 (50.6%) had bilateral-asymmetric disease (two thyroid lobes unequal in size), 257 (12.3%) had bilateral-symmetric disease (both lobes similar in size), and 81 (3.9%) had multifocal disease (>/=3 areas of increased radionuclide uptake). The number of areas of (99m) TcO(-) 4 uptake in the 2096 cats ranged from 1 to 6 (median, 2), located in the cervical area in 2057 (98.1%), thoracic inlet in 282 (13.5%), and in the thoracic cavity in 115 (5.5%). Ectopic thyroid tissue (e.g. lingual or mediastinal) was diagnosed in 81 (3.9%) cats, whereas thyroid carcinoma was suspected in 35 (1.7%) of the cats. The results of this study support conclusions that most hyperthyroid cats have unilateral or bilateral thyroid nodules, but that multifocal disease will develop in a few cats that have ectopic thyroid disease or thyroid carcinoma. Both ectopic thyroid disease and thyroid carcinoma are relatively uncommon in hyperthyroid cats, with a respective prevalence of approximately 4% and approximately 2% in this study.