Perfect storm: Therapeutic plasma exchange for a patient with thyroid storm

Andrea M. McGonigle, Aaron A.R. Tobian, Jennifer L. Zink, Karen E. King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Thyroid storm is a potentially lethal complication of hyperthyroidism with increased thyroid hormones and exaggerated symptoms of thyrotoxicosis. First-line therapy includes methimazole (MMI) or propylthiouracil (PTU) to block production of thyroid hormones as a bridge toward definitive surgical treatment. Untreated thyroid storm has a mortality rate of up to 30%; this is particularly alarming when patients cannot tolerate or fail pharmacotherapy, especially if they cannot undergo thyroidectomy. Therapeutic plasma exchange (TPE) is an ASFA category III indication for thyroid storm, meaning the optimum role of this therapy is not established, and there are a limited number of cases in the literature. Yet TPE can remove T3 and T4 bound to albumin, autoantibodies, catecholamines and cytokines and is likely beneficial for these patients. We report a patient with thyroid storm who could not tolerate PTU, subsequently failed therapy with MMI, and was not appropriate for thyroidectomy. TPE was therefore performed daily for 4 days (1.0 plasma volume with 5% albumin replacement and 2 U of plasma). Over the treatment course, the patient's thyroid hormones normalized and symptoms of thyroid storm largely resolved; his T3 decreased from 2.27 to 0.81 ng/mL (normal 0.8-2.0), T4 decreased from 4.8 to 1.7 ng/mL (0.8-1.8), heart rate normalized, altered mental status improved, and he converted to normal sinus rhythm. He was ultimately discharged in euthyroid state. He experienced no side effects from his TPE procedures. TPE is a safe and effective treatment for thyroid storm when conventional treatments are not successful or appropriate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-116
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Clinical Apheresis
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2018


  • hyperthyroidism
  • methimazole (MMI)
  • propylthiouracil (PTU)
  • therapeutic apheresis
  • thionamide
  • thyrotoxicosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology


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