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Ab antibody
ClO4 perchlorate ion
DIT diiodotyrosine
FNAB fine-needle aspiration biopsy
FSH follicle-stimulating hormone
GRTH generalized resistance to thyroid hormone
hCG human chorionic gonadotropin
LH luteinizing hormone
MCT monocarboxylate transporter
MIT monoiodotyrosine
NADPH nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate
NCoR nuclear receptor corepressor
NIS sodium-iodide symporter
OATP1C1 organic anion transporting polypeptide
PTU propylthiouracil
RAIU radioactive iodine uptake
rhTSH recombinant human TSH
rT3 reverse triiodothyronine
RTH resistance to thyroid hormones
RXR retinoid X receptor
SMRT silencing mediator for retinoic and thyroid hormone receptors
T4 thyroxine
T3 triiodothyronine
TBG thyroxine-binding globulin
TBPA transthyretin or thyroxine-binding prealbumin
TG thyroglobulin
TPO thyroid peroxidase
TR thyroid hormone receptor
TRH thyrotropin-releasing hormone
TSH thyroid-stimulating hormone (thyrotropin)
WHO World Health Organization

The thyroid gland is the body’s largest single organ specialized for endocrine hormone production. Its function is to secrete an appropriate amount of the thyroid hormones, primarily 3,5,3′,5′-l-tetraiodothyronine (thyroxine, T4), and a lesser quantity of 3,5,3′-l-triiodothyronine (T3), which arises mainly from the subsequent extrathyroidal deiodination of T4. In target tissues, T3 interacts with nuclear T3 receptors that are, in turn, bound to special nucleotide sequences in the promoter regions of genes that are positively or negatively regulated by thyroid hormone. The thyroid hormones promote normal fetal and childhood growth and central nervous system development; regulate heart rate and myocardial contraction and relaxation; affect gastrointestinal motility and renal water clearance; and modulate the body’s energy expenditure, heat generation, weight, and lipid metabolism. In addition, the thyroid contains parafollicular or C cells that produce calcitonin, a 32-amino-acid polypeptide that inhibits bone resorption, but has no apparent physiologic role in humans. However, calcitonin is clinically important as a tumor marker produced by medullary thyroid cancers that arise from these cells (see Chapter 8).


The thyroid gland originates in the embryo as a mesodermal invagination in the pharyngeal floor at the foramen cecum, from which it descends anterior to the trachea and bifurcates, forming two lateral lobes, each measuring approximately 4 cm in length, 2 cm in width, and 1 cm in thickness in adulthood. Ectopic thyroid tissue can be present anywhere along or beyond this thyroglossal duct, from the tongue base (lingual thyroid) to the mediastinum. The thyroglossal duct may also give rise to midline cysts lined with squamous epithelium, which can remain asymptomatic, or become infected or give rise to thyroid tumors. The caudal end of the thyroglossal duct forms the pyramidal lobe of the thyroid, which can become palpable in conditions causing diffuse thyroid inflammation or stimulation (Figure 7–1).


Gross anatomy of the human thyroid gland (anterior view).

Because the posterior thyroid capsule is bound to the pretracheal fascia, the gland normally ...

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