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Graves disease

Graves disease (also known as Basedow disease in mainland Europe 9) is an autoimmune thyroid disease and is the most common cause of thyrotoxicosis (up to 85%).

There is a strong female predilection with an F:M ratio of at least 5:1. It typically presents in middle age.

Patients are thyrotoxic. Extrathyroid manifestations include:

The combination of exophthalmos, tachycardia, and goiter is called the Merseburger Triad.

Results from an antibody directed stimulation of the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) receptor, with resultant production and release of T3 and T4.

The affected gland shows diffuse, symmetrical enlargement, with a fleshy red cut surface. This appearance can be altered by preoperative treatment or chronicity.

The histological features are consistent with the activated state of the gland:

  • plump follicular cells with increased amounts of eosinophilic cytoplasm
  • hyperplastic follicles with papillary epithelial infoldings
  • evidence of colloid reabsorption including 'scalloping' at the apical membrane and variable follicle collapse and exhaustion

These features can be altered by preoperative treatment or chronicity. 

  • TSH: suppressed
  • T4: elevated
  • T3: elevated
  • TSH receptor antibodies (TSI, TGI, TBII): positive
  • thyroid gland is often enlarged and can be hyperechoic
  • heterogeneous thyroid echotexture
  • relative absence of nodularity in uncomplicated cases
  • hypervascular; may demonstrate a thyroid inferno pattern on color Doppler 1
  • iodine-123: imaging performed at around 2-6 days; classically demonstrates homogeneously increased activity in an enlarged gland
  • technetium-99m pertechnetate: homogeneously increased activity in an enlarged thyroid gland

It is named after Robert James Graves (1796-1852), Irish surgeon, who first described it in 1835 9, and Carl Adolph von Basedow (1799-1854), German physician, who described it in 1840 10,11. The Merseburger triad was first described by Dr Basedow who practiced in Merseburg 12.

For hyperthyroidism consider: 

Thyroid pathology
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Article information

rID: 10695
System: Head & Neck
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Graves' disease
  • Basedow disease
  • Basedow's disease
  • Morbus Basedow

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: macroscopic pathology
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  • Figure 2: histology
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  • Figure 3: histology
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  • Case 1: with "thyroid inferno" appearance
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  • Case 2: with thyroid orbitopathy
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  • Case 3: thyroid scintigraphy
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  • Case 4: on ultrasound
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