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The Top Ten Stories Affecting Thyroid Patients in the Decade from 2000-2009


Updated March 24, 2010

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The Battle Over the TSH Normal Reference Range Continues
The Top Ten Stories Affecting Thyroid Patients in the Decade from 2000-2009

Since 2002, there has been a rift among thyroid experts regarding what TSH range should be considered "normal."

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Back in 2002, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists recommended using a new thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) test reference range of .3 to 3.0. As we come to the close of the decade, more than seven years later, laboratories across the U.S. still use the older range of 0.5 - 5.0 (and sometimes as high as 6.0).

Endocrinologists' inability to agree is causing confusion as well as misdiagnosis and mistreatment for thyroid patients. Because while some doctors consider a TSH level above 3.0 as evidence of hypothyroidism, others refuse to acknowledge the new guidelines, and instead stubbornly cling to the older range.

Meanwhile, many general practice or family doctors -- totally unaware of the controversy in the first place -- simply review the lab reports, and base their decisions on whether the lab is flagging thyroid test results as "high" or "low." And given that labs are still using the old range, that means many patients -- some say many millions -- fall in the TSH range from 3.0 to 5.0 -- a test result limbo where while the individual may be hypothyroid and symptomatic, he or she still fails to get properly diagnosed and treated.

I've been covering the TSH reference range controversy for years. You can read some of my key articles discussing the TSH test, and the reference range controversy here:

Will professional organizations, laboratories, insurers, endocrinologists, physicians and patients come to an agreement this decade regarding a normal reference range for the TSH test? We can only hope that this rift finally is resolved, because patients are the ones who are suffering from the medical community's inability to come to an agreement.

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