The clinical utility and cost effectiveness of routine thyroid screening in adult psychiatric patients presenting at Stikland Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa

Department of Psychiatry, University of Stellenbosch, Tygerberg, South Africa.
African Journal of Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 0.73). 02/2012; 15(1):36-41. DOI: 10.4314/ajpsy.v15i1.5
Source: PubMed


The use of thyroid tests to assess psychiatric patients remains debatable. Therefore, this study was conducted to examine the utility and cost effectiveness of the current protocol used in thyroid testing in adult psychiatric patients presenting at Stikland Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa.
This was a retrospective chart review conducted at Stikland Hospital between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2005. The following data was recorded: demographic variables, clinical diagnoses at admission and discharge, number of days from admission to a thyroid test request, the reason for thyroid screening, number of thyroid tests, their yield and costs involved, as well as the action taken following an abnormal thyroid test result.
The mean age of patients (n = 1080: n = 364 male, n = 716 female) was 42.8 years (SD ± 16.6). Pre-existing thyroid disease was documented in 70 (6%) of patients. Normal Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) test results significantly (p = 0.0001) increased, whilst abnormal TSH test results significantly (p = 0.0001) decreased from baseline to follow-up. Except for gender, the outcome of TSH screening was independent of demographic and clinical diagnoses. Only 16% of TSH tests yielded clinically significant results.
The findings of this study do not support the early, routine screening for thyroid dysfunction in psychiatric patients at this facility. It is possible that thyroid screening may present with transient abnormalities of no particular clinical significance, and would therefore not be a cost effective practice.

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