Endocrine Society and American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists

Five Things Physicians and Patients Should Question

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1

Avoid routine multiple daily self-glucose monitoring in adults with stable type 2 diabetes on agents that do not cause hypoglycemia.

Once target control is achieved and the results of self-monitoring become quite predictable, there is little gained in most individuals from repeatedly confirming. There are many exceptions, such as for acute illness, when new medications are added, when weight fluctuates significantly, when A1c targets drift off course and in individuals who need monitoring to maintain targets. Self-monitoring is beneficial as long as one is learning and adjusting therapy based on the result of the monitoring.

2

Don’t routinely measure 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D unless the patient has hypercalcemia or decreased kidney function.

Many practitioners become confused when ordering a vitamin D test. Because 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D is the active form of vitamin D, many practitioners think that measuring 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D is an accurate means to estimate vitamin D stores and test for vitamin D deficiency, which is incorrect. Current Endocrine Society guidelines recommend screening for vitamin D deficiency in individuals at risk for deficiency.

Serum levels of 1,25-dihyroxyvitamin D have little or no relationship to vitamin D stores but rather are regulated primarily by parathyroid hormone levels, which in turn are regulated by calcium and/or vitamin D. In vitamin D deficiency, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D levels go up, not down.

Unregulated production of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (i.e., sarcoidosis, granulomatous diseases) is an uncommon cause of hypercalcemia; this should be suspected if blood calcium levels are high and parathyroid hormone levels are low and confirmed by measurement of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D. The enzyme that activates vitamin D is produced in the kidney, so blood levels of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D are sometimes of interest in patients on dialysis or with end-stage kidney disease. There are few other circumstances, if any, where 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D testing would be helpful.

Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels may be overused, but when trying to assess vitamin D stores or diagnose vitamin D deficiency (or toxicity), 25-hydroxyvitamin D is the correct test.

3

Don’t routinely order a thyroid ultrasound in patients with abnormal thyroid function tests if there is no palpable abnormality of the thyroid gland.

Thyroid ultrasound is used to identify and characterize thyroid nodules, and is not part of the routine evaluation of abnormal thyroid function tests (over- or underactive thyroid function) unless the patient also has a large goiter or a lumpy thyroid. Incidentally discovered thyroid nodules are common. Overzealous use of ultrasound will frequently identify nodules, which are unrelated to the abnormal thyroid function, and may divert the clinical evaluation to assess the nodules, rather than the thyroid dysfunction. Imaging may be needed in thyrotoxic patients; when needed, a thyroid scan, not an ultrasound, is used to assess the etiology of the thyrotoxicosis and the possibility of focal autonomy in a thyroid nodule.

4

Don’t order a total or free T3 level when assessing levothyroxine (T4) dose in hypothyroid patients.

T4 is converted into T3 at the cellular level in virtually all organs. Intracellular T3 levels regulate pituitary secretion and blood levels of TSH, as well as the effects of thyroid hormone in multiple organs; a normal TSH indicates an adequate T4 dose. Conversion of T4 to T3 at the cellular level may not be reflected in the T3 level in the blood. Compared to patients with intact thyroid glands, patients taking T4 may have higher blood T4 and lower blood T3 levels. Thus the blood level of total or free T3 may be misleading (low normal or slightly low); in most patients a normal TSH indicates a correct dose of T4.

5

Don’t prescribe testosterone therapy unless there is biochemical evidence of testosterone deficiency.

Many of the symptoms attributed to male hypogonadism are commonly seen in normal male aging or in the presence of comorbid conditions. Testosterone therapy has the potential for serious side effects and represents a significant expense. It is therefore important to confirm the clinical suspicion of hypogonadism with biochemical testing. Current guidelines recommend the use of a total testosterone level obtained in the morning. A low level should be confirmed on a different day, again measuring the total testosterone. In some situations, a free or bioavailable testosterone may be of additional value.

These items are provided solely for informational purposes and are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a medical professional. Patients with any specific questions about the items on this list or their individual situation should consult their physician.

Founded in 1916, the Endocrine Society is the world’s oldest, largest, and most active organization devoted to research on hormones and the clinical practice of endocrinology. The Society is an international body with more than 16,000 members from over 100 countries, and represents the full range of disciplines associated with endocrinologists: clinicians, researchers, educators, fellows and students, industry professionals and health professionals who are involved in the field of endocrinology. Our members are dedicated to the research and treatment of the full range of endocrine disorders: diabetes, reproduction, infertility, osteoporosis, thyroid disease, obesity/lipids, growth hormone, pituitary tumors and adrenal insufficiency.

Visit Endocrine Society at www.endo-society.org.

The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) represents more than 6,500 endocrinologists in the United States and abroad. AACE is the largest association of clinical endocrinologists in the world. The majority of AACE members are certified in endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism and concentrate on the treatment of patients with endocrine and metabolic disorders including diabetes, thyroid disorders, osteoporosis, growth hormone deficiency, cholesterol disorders, hypertension and obesity.

Visit our site at www.aace.com.

How this list was created: Members of the Endocrine Society (Society) along with representatives of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) formed a joint task force to identify tests or procedures which should only be used in specific circumstances. The task force identified several items for possible inclusion. Subsequent discussions compared the evidence supporting each item, the value of the recommendation to practitioners and the potential for cost savings. Members of the Society’s Clinical Affairs Core Committee and AACE leadership also reviewed the initial list. Using the above criteria, the task force voted for their top five recommendations from the original list. The Society’s Council and AACE’s Board of Directors approved the final list for submission to the Choosing Wisely® campaign.

The Endocrine Society and AACE disclosure and conflict of interest policies can be found at www.endo-society.org and www.aace.com respectively.

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