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Reminder of important clinical lesson
Unexplained high thyroid stimulating hormone: a “BIG” problem


Macro-hormones and macro-enzymes are high molecular weight conjugates of hormones or enzymes, respectively, often with immunoglobulins. These are referred to as macromolecular complexes, and may cause artefactually elevated biochemical tests results. Macro enzymes of the most commonly measured serum enzymes have been identified and are recognised as a source of elevated measurements that may cause diagnostic confusion; macro-creatine kinase and macro-amylase are the two better known macro-enzymes in clinical practice. Literature on macro-hormones is largely restricted to macro-prolactin. We present a case of a clinically euthyroid patient, who had persistently elevated thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) but free thyroxine within the reference limits. She underwent repeated thyroid investigations and thyroid hormone interference studies, until macro-TSH was identified as the most likely cause of unexplained elevated TSH. Following the identification and characterisation of this biochemical abnormality, she is no longer subject to repeated blood tests for assessment of thyroid function; the patient currently remains clinically euthyroid.

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