MICROSCOPIC EXAMINATION OF URINE

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Thursday, 10 August 2017 00:57
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Microscopic examination of urine is also called as the “liquid biopsy of the urinary tract”.
 
Urine consists of various microscopic, insoluble, solid elements in suspension. These elements are classified as organized or unorganized. Organized substances include red blood cells, white blood cells, epithelial cells, casts, bacteria, and parasites. The unorganized substances are crystalline and amorphous material. These elements are suspended in urine and on standing they settle down and sediment at the bottom of the container; therefore they are known as urinary deposits or urinary sediments. Examination of urinary deposit is helpful in diagnosis of urinary tract diseases as shown in Table 825.1.
 
Table 825.1 Urinary findings in renal diseases
Condition Albumin RBCs/HPF WBCs/HPF Casts/LPF Others
1. Normal 0-trace 0-2 0-2 Occasional (Hyaline)
2. Acute glomerulonephritis 1-2+ Numerous;dysmorphic 0-few Red cell, granular Smoky urine or hematuria
3. Nephrotic syndrome > 4+ 0-few 0-few Fatty, hyaline, Waxy, epithelial Oval fat bodies, lipiduria
4. Acute pyelonephritis 0-1+ 0-few Numerous WBC, granular WBC clumps, bacteria, nitrite test
HPF: High power field; LPF: Low power field; RBCs: Red blood cells; WBCs: White blood cells.
 
Different types of urinary sediments are shown in Figure 825.1. The major aim of microscopic examination of urine is to identify different types of cellular elements and casts. Most crystals have little clinical significance.
 
Figure 825.1 Different types of urinary sediment
Figure 825.1 Different types of urinary sediment
 
Specimen: The cellular elements are best preserved in acid, hypertonic urine; they deteriorate rapidly in alkaline, hypotonic solution. A mid-stream, freshly voided, first morning specimen is preferred since it is the most concentrated. The specimen should be examined within 2 hours of voiding because cells and casts degenerate upon standing at room temperature. If preservative is required, then 1 crystal of thymol or 1 drop of formalin (40%) is added to about 10 ml of urine.
 
Method: A well-mixed sample of urine (12 ml) is centrifuged in a centrifuge tube for 5 minutes at 1500 rpm and supernatant is poured off. The tube is tapped at the bottom to resuspend the sediment (in 0.5 ml of urine). A drop of this is placed on a glass slide and covered with a cover slip (Figure 825.2). The slide is examined immediately under the microscope using first the low power and then the high power objective. The condenser should be lowered to better visualize the elements by reducing the illumination.
 
Figure 825.2 Preparation of urine sediment for microscopic examination
Figure 825.2 Preparation of urine sediment for microscopic examination
 
CELLS
 
Cellular elements in urine are shown in Figure 825.3.
 
Figure 825.3 Cells in urine
Figure 825.3 Cells in urine (1) Isomorphic red blood cells, (2) Crenated red cells, (3) Swollen red cells, (4) Dysmorphic red cells, (5) White blood cells (pus cells), (6) Squamous epithelial cell, (7) Transitional epithelial cells, (8) Renal tubular epithelial cells, (9) Oval fat bodies, (10) Maltese cross pattern of oval fat bodies, and (11) spermatozoa
 
Red Blood Cells
 
Normally there are no or an occasional red blood cell in urine. In a fresh urine sample, red cells appear as small, smooth, yellowish, anucleate biconcave disks about 7 μ in diameter (called as isomorphic red cells). However, red cells may appear swollen (thin discs of greater diameter, 9-10 μ) in dilute or hypotonic urine, or may appear crenated (smaller diameter with spikey surface) in hypertonic urine. In glomerulonephritis, red cells are typically described as being dysmorphic (i.e. markedly variable in size and shape). They result from passage of red cells through the damaged glomeruli. Presence of > 80% of dysmorphic red cells is strongly suggestive of glomerular pathology.
 
The quantity of red cells can be reported as number of red cells per high power field.
 
Causes of hematuria have been listed earlier.
 
White Blood Cells (Pus Cells)
 
White blood cells are spherical, 10-15 μ in size, granular in appearance in which nuclei may be visible. Degenerated white cells are distorted, smaller, and have fewer granules. Clumps of numerous white cells are seen in infections. Presence of many white cells in urine is called as pyuria. In hypotonic urine white cells are swollen and the granules are highly refractile and show Brownian movement; such cells are called as glitter cells; large numbers are indicative of injury to urinary tract.
 
Normally 0-2 white cells may be seen per high power field. Pus cells greater than 10/HPF or presence of clumps is suggestive of urinary tract infection.
 
Increased numbers of white cells occur in fever, pyelonephritis, lower urinary tract infection, tubulointerstitial nephritis, and renal transplant rejection.
 
In urinary tract infection, following are usually seen in combination:
 
  • Clumps of pus cells or pus cells >10/HPF
  • Bacteria
  • Albuminuria
  • Positive nitrite test
 
Simultaneous presence of white cells and white cell casts indicates presence of renal infection (pyelonephritis).
 
Eosinophils (>1% of urinary leucocytes) are a characteristic feature of acute interstitial nephritis due to drug reaction (better appreciated with a Wright’s stain).
 
Renal Tubular Epithelial Cells
 
Presence of renal tubular epithelial cells is a significant finding. Increased numbers are found in conditions causing tubular damage like acute tubular necrosis, pyelonephritis, viral infection of kidney, allograft rejection, and salicylate or heavy metal poisoning.
 
These cells are small (about the same size or slightly larger than white blood cell), polyhedral, columnar, or oval, and have granular cytoplasm. A single, large, refractile, eccentric nucleus is often seen.
 
Renal tubular epithelial cells are difficult to distinguish from pus cells in unstained preparations.
 
Squamous Epithelial Cells
 
Squamous epithelial cells line the lower urethra and vagina. They are best seen under low power objective (×10). Presence of large numbers of squamous cells in urine indicates contamination of urine with vaginal fluid. These are large cells, rectangular in shape, flat with abundant cytoplasm and a small, central nucleus.
 
Transitional Epithelial Cells
 
Transitional cells line renal pelvis, ureters, urinary bladder, and upper urethra. These cells are large, and diamond- or pear-shaped (caudate cells). Large numbers or sheets of these cells in urine occur after catheterization and in transitional cell carcinoma.
 
Oval Fat Bodies
 
These are degenerated renal tubular epithelial cells filled with highly refractile lipid (cholesterol) droplets. Under polarized light, they show a characteristic “Maltese cross” pattern. They can be stained with a fat stain such as Sudan III or Oil Red O. They are seen in nephrotic syndrome in which there is lipiduria.
 
Spermatozoa
 
They may sometimes be seen in urine of men.
 
Telescoped urinary sediment: This refers to urinary sediment consisting of red blood cells, white blood cells, oval fat bodies, and all types of casts in roughly equal proportion. It occurs in lupus nephritis, malignant hypertension, rapidly proliferative glomerulonephritis, and diabetic glomerulosclerosis.
 
ORGANISMS
 
Organisms detectable in urine are shown in Figure 825.4.
 
Figure 825.4 Organisms in urine
Figure 825.4 Organisms in urine: (A) Bacteria, (B) Yeasts, (C) Trichomonas, and (D) Egg of Schistosoma haematobium
 
Bacteria
 
Bacteria in urine can be detected by microscopic examination, reagent strip tests for significant bacteriuria (nitrite test, leucocyte esterase test), and culture
 
Significant bacteriuria exists when there are >105 bacterial colony forming units/ml of urine in a cleancatch midstream sample, >104 colony forming units/ml of urine in catheterized sample, and >103 colonyforming units/ml of urine in a suprapubic aspiration sample.
 
  1. Microscopic examination: In a wet preparation, presence of bacteria should be reported only when urine is fresh. Bacteria occur in combination with pus cells. Gram’s-stained smear of uncentrifuged urine showing 1 or more bacteria per oil-immersion field suggests presence of > 105 bacterial colony forming units/ml of urine. If many squamous cells are present, then urine is probably contaminated with vaginal flora. Also, presence of only bacteria without pus cells indicates contamination with vaginal or skin flora.
  2. Chemical or reagent strip tests for significant bacteriuria: These are given earlier.
  3. Culture: On culture, a colony count of >105/ml is strongly suggestive of urinary tract infection, even in asymptomatic females. Positive culture is followed by sensitivity test. Most infections are due to Gram-negative enteric bacteria, particularly Escherichia coli.
 
If three or more species of bacteria are identified on culture, it almost always indicates contamination by vaginal flora.
 
Negative culture in the presence of pyuria (‘sterile’ pyuria) occurs with prior antibiotic therapy, renal tuberculosis, prostatitis, renal calculi, catheterization, fever in children (irrespective of cause), female genital tract infection, and non-specific urethritis in males.
 
Yeast Cells (Candida)
 
These are round or oval structures of approximately the same size as red blood cells. In contrast to red cells, they show budding, are oval and more refractile, and are not soluble in 2% acetic acid.
 
Presence of Candida in urine may suggest immunocompromised state, vaginal candidiasis, or diabetes mellitus. Usually pyuria is present if there is infection by Candida. Candida may also be a contaminant in the sample and therefore urine sample must be examined in a fresh state.
 
Trichomonas vaginalis
 
These are motile organisms with pear shape, undulating membrane on one side, and four flagellae. They cause vaginitis in females and are thus contaminants in urine. They are easily detected in fresh urine due to their motility.
 
Eggs of Schistosoma haematobium
 
Infection by this organism is prevalent in Egypt.
 
Microfilariae
 
They may be seen in urine in chyluria due to rupture of a urogenital lymphatic vessel.
 
CASTS
 
Urinary casts are cylindrical, cigar-shaped microscopic structures that form in distal renal tubules and collecting ducts. They take the shape and diameter of the lumina (molds or ‘casts’) of the renal tubules. They have parallel sides and rounded ends. Their length and width may be variable. Casts are basically composed of a precipitate of a protein that is secreted by tubules (Tamm-Horsfall protein). Since casts form only in renal tubules their presence is indicative of disease of the renal parenchyma. Although there are several types of casts, all urine casts are basically hyaline; various types of casts are formed when different elements get deposited on the hyaline material (Figure 825.5). Casts are best seen under low power objective (×10) with condenser lowered down to reduce the illumination.
 
Figure 825.5 Genesis of casts in urine
 Figure 825.5 Genesis of casts in urine. All cellular casts degenerate to granular and waxy casts
 
Casts are the only elements in the urinary sediment that are specifically of renal origin.
 
Casts (Figure 825.6) are of two main types:
 
  1. Noncellular: Hyaline, granular, waxy, fatty
  2. Cellular: Red blood cell, white blood cell, renal tubular epithelial cell.
 
Hyaline and granular casts may appear in normal or diseased states. All other casts are found in kidney diseases.
 
Figure 825.6 Urinary casts
Figure 825.6 Urinary casts: (A) Hyaline cast, (B) Granular cast, (C) Waxy cast, (D) Fatty cast, (E) Red cell cast, (F) White cell cast, and (G) Epithelial cast
 
Non-cellular Casts
 
Hyaline casts: These are the most common type of casts in urine and are homogenous, colorless, transparent, and refractile. They are cylindrical with parallel sides and blunt, rounded ends and low refractive index. Presence of occasional hyaline cast is considered as normal. Their presence in increased numbers (“cylinduria”) is abnormal. They are composed primarily of Tamm-Horsfall protein. They occur transiently after strenuous muscle exercise in healthy persons and during fever. Increased numbers are found in conditions causing glomerular proteinuria.
 
Granular casts: Presence of degenerated cellular debris in a cast makes it granular in appearance. These are cylindrical structures with coarse or fine granules (which represent degenerated renal tubular epithelial cells) embedded in Tamm-Horsfall protein matrix. They are seen after strenuous muscle exercise and in fever, acute glomerulonephritis, and pyelonephritis.
 
Waxy cast: These are the most easily recognized of all casts. They form when hyaline casts remain in renal tubules for long time (prolonged stasis). They have homogenous, smooth glassy appearance, cracked or serrated margins and irregular broken-off ends. The ends are straight and sharp and not rounded as in other casts. They are light yellow in color. They are most commonly seen in end-stage renal failure.
 
Fatty casts: These are cylindrical structures filled with highly refractile fat globules (triglycerides and cholesterol esters) in Tamm-Horsfall protein matrix. They are seen in nephrotic syndrome.
 
Broad casts: Broad casts form in dilated distal tubules and are seen in chronic renal failure and severe renal tubular obstruction. Both waxy and broad casts are associated with poor prognosis.
 
Cellular Casts
 
To be called as cellular, casts should contain at least three cells in the matrix. Cellular casts are named according to the type of cells entrapped in the matrix.
 
Red cell casts: These are cylindrical structures with red cells in Tamm-Horsfall protein matrix. They may appear brown in color due to hemoglobin pigmentation. These have greater diagnostic importance than any other cast. If present, they help to differentiate hematuria due to glomerular disease from hematuria due to other causes. RBC casts usually denote glomerular pathology e.g. acute glomerulonephritis.
 
White cell casts: These are cylindrical structures with white blood cells embedded in Tamm-Horsfall protein matrix. Leucocytes usually enter into tubules from the interstitium and therefore presence of leucocyte casts indicates tubulointerstitial disease like pyelonephritis.
 
Renal tubular epithelial cell casts: These are composed of renal tubular epithelial cells that have been sloughed off. They are seen in acute tubular necrosis, viral renal disease, heavy metal poisoning, and acute allograft rejection. Even an occasional renal tubular cast is a significant finding.
 
CRYSTALS
 
Crystals are refractile structures with a definite geometric shape due to orderly 3-dimensional arrangement of its atoms and molecules. Amorphous material (or deposit) has no definite shape and is commonly seen in the form of granular aggregates or clumps.
 
Crystals in urine (Figure 825.7) can be divided into two main types: (1) Normal (seen in normal urinary sediment), and (2) Abnormal (seen in diseased states).
 
Figure 825.7 Crystals in urine
Figure 825.7 Crystals in urine. (A) Normal crystals: (1) Calcium oxalate, (2) Triple phosphates, (3) Uric acid, (4) Amorphous phosphates, (5) Amorphous urates, (6) Ammonium urate. (B) Abnormal crystals: (1) Cysteine, (2) Cholesterol, (3) Bilirubin, (4) Tyrosine, (5) Sulfonamide, and (6) Leucine
 
However, crystals found in normal urine can also be seen in some diseases in increased numbers.
 
Most crystals have no clinical importance (particularly phosphates, urates, and oxalates). Crystals can be identified in urine by their morphology. However, before reporting presence of any abnormal crystals, it is necessary to confirm them by chemical tests.
 
Normal Crystals
 
Crystals present in acid urine:
 
  1. Uric acid crystals: These are variable in shape (diamond, rosette, plates), and yellow or red-brown in color (due to urinary pigment). They are soluble in alkali, and insoluble in acid. Increased numbers are found in gout and leukemia. Flat hexagonal uric acid crystals may be mistaken for cysteine crystals that also form in acid urine.
  2. Calcium oxalate crystals: These are colorless, refractile, and envelope-shaped. Sometimes dumbbell-shaped or peanut-like forms are seen. They are soluble in dilute hydrochloric acid. Ingestion of certain foods like tomatoes, spinach, cabbage, asparagus, and rhubarb causes increase in their numbers. Their increased number in fresh urine (oxaluria) may also suggest oxalate stones. A large number are seen in ethylene glycol poisoning.
  3. Amorphous urates: These are urate salts of potassium, magnesium, or calcium in acid urine. They are usually yellow, fine granules in compact masses. They are soluble in alkali or saline at 60°C.
 
Crystals present in alkaline urine:
 
  1. Calcium carbonate crystals: These are small, colorless, and grouped in pairs. They are soluble in acetic acid and give off bubbles of gas when they dissolve.
  2. Phosphates: Phosphates may occur as crystals (triple phosphates, calcium hydrogen phosphate), or as amorphous deposits.
    Phosphate crystals
    Triple phosphates (ammonium magnesium phosphate): They are colorless, shiny, 3-6 sided prisms with oblique surfaces at the ends (“coffinlids”), or may have a feathery fern-like appearance.
    Calcium hydrogen phosphate (stellar phosphate): These are colorless, and of variable shape (starshaped, plates or prisms).
    Amorphous phosphates: These occur as colorless small granules, often dispersed.
    All phosphates are soluble in dilute acetic acid.
  3. Ammonium urate crystals: These occur as cactus-like (covered with spines) and called as ‘thornapple’ crystals. They are yellow-brown and soluble in acetic acid at 60°C.
 
Abnormal Crystals
 
They are rare, but result from a pathological process.
 
These occur in acid pH, often in large amounts. Abnormal crystals should not be reported on microscopy alone; additional chemical tests are done for confirmation.
 
  1. Cysteine crystals: These are colorless, clear, hexagonal (having 6 sides), very refractile plates in acid urine. They often occur in layers. They are soluble in 30% hydrochloric acid. They are seen in cysteinuria, an inborn error of metabolism. Cysteine crystals are often associated with formation of cysteine stones.
  2. Cholesterol crystals: These are colorless, refractile, flat rectangular plates with notched (missing) corners, and appear stacked in a stair-step arrangement. They are soluble in ether, chloroform, or alcohol. They are seen in lipiduria e.g. nephrotic syndrome and hypercholesterolemia. They can be positively identified by polarizing microscope.
  3. Bilirubin crystals: These are small (5 μ), brown crystals of variable shape (square, bead-like, or fine needles). Their presence can be confirmed by doing reagent strip or chemical test for bilirubin. These crystals are soluble in strong acid or alkali. They are seen in severe obstructive liver disease.
  4. Leucine crystals: These are refractile, yellow or brown, spheres with radial or concentric striations. They are soluble in alkali. They are usually found in urine along with tyrosine in severe liver disease (cirrhosis).
  5. Tyrosine crystals: They appear as clusters of fine, delicate, colorless or yellow needles and are seen in liver disease and tyrosinemia (an inborn error of metabolism). They dissolve in alkali.
  6. Sulfonamide crystals: They are variably shaped crystals, but usually appear as sheaves of needles. They occur following sulfonamide therapy. They are soluble in acetone.

Additional Info

Last modified on Sunday, 20 August 2017 15:21
Dayyal Dg.

Clinical laboratory professional specialized to external quality assessment (proficiency testing) schemes for Laboratory medicine and clinical pathology. | Author/Writer/Blogger

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  • TOTAL THYROXINE (T4)
    Total serum thyroxine includes both free and protein-bound thyroxine and is usually measured by competitive immunoassay. Normal level in adults is 5.0-12.0 μg/dl.
     
    Test for total thyroxine or free thyroxine is usually combined with TSH measurement and together they give the best assessment of thyroid function.
     
    Causes of Increased Total T4
     
    1. Hyperthyroidism: Elevation of both T4 and T3 values along with decrease of TSH are indicative of primary hyperthyroidism.
    2. Increased thyroxine-binding globulin: If concentration of TBG increases, free hormone level falls, release of TSH from pituitary is stimulated, and free hormone concentration is restored to normal. Reverse occurs if concentration of binding proteins falls. In either case, level of free hormones remains normal, while concentration of total hormone is altered. Therefore, estimation of only total T4 concentration can cause misinterpretation of results in situations that alter concentration of TBG.
    3. Factitious hyperthyroidism
    4. Pituitary TSH-secreting tumor.
     
    Causes of Decreased Total T4
     
    1. Primary hypothyroidism: The combination of decreased T4 and elevated TSH are indicative of primary hypothyroidism.
    2. Secondary or pituitary hypothyroidism
    3. Tertiary or hypothalamic hypothyroidism
    4. Hypoproteinaemia, e.g. nephrotic syndrome
    5. Drugs: oestrogen, danazol
    6. Severe non-thyroidal illness.
     
    Free Thyroxine (FT4)
     
    FT4 comprises of only a small fraction of total T4, is unbound to proteins, and is the metabolically active form of the hormone. It constitutes about 0.05% of total T4. Normal range is 0.7 to 1.9 ng/dl. Free hormone concentrations (FT4 and FT3) correlate better with metabolic state than total hormone levels (since they are not affected by changes in TBG concentrations).
     
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    Total and Free Triiodothyronine (T3)
     
    Uses
     
    1. Diagnosis of T3 thyrotoxicosis: Hyperthyroidism with low TSH and elevated T3, and normal T4/FT4 is termed T3 thyrotoxicosis.
    2. Early diagnosis of hyperthyroidism: In early stage of hyperthyroidism, total T4 and free T4 levels are normal, but T3 is elevated.
     
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    For routine assessment of thyroid function, TSH and T4 are measured. T3 is not routinely estimated because normal plasma levels are very low.
     
    Normal T3 level is 80-180 ng/dl.
     
    Free T3: Measurement of free T3 gives true values in patients with altered serum protein levels (like pregnancy, intake of estrogens or oral contraceptives, and nephrotic syndrome). It represents 0.5% of total T3.
     
    Thyrotropin Releasing Hormone (TRH) Stimulation Test
     
    Uses
     
    1. Confirmation of diagnosis of secondary hypothyroidism
    2. Evaluation of suspected hypothalamic disease
    3. Suspected hyperthyroidism
     
    This test is not much used nowadays due to the availability of sensitive TSH assays.
     
    Procedure
     
    • A baseline blood sample is collected for estimation of basal serum TSH level.
    • TRH is injected intravenously (200 or 500 μg) followed by measurement of serum TSH at 20 and 60 minutes.
     
    Interpretation
     
    1. Normal response: A rise of TSH > 2 mU/L at 20 minutes, and a small decline at 60 minutes.
    2. Exaggerated response: A further significant rise in already elevated TSH level at 20 minutes followed by a slight decrease at 60 minutes; occurs in primary hypothyroidism.
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    4. Delayed response: TSH is higher at 60 minutes as compared to its level at 20 minutes; seen in tertiary (hypothalamic) hypothyroidism.
     
    Antithyroid Antibodies
     
    Box 864.1 Thyroid autoantibodies
     
    • Useful for diagnosis and monitoring of autoimmune thyroid diseases.
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    • Anti-TSH receptor antibodies: Graves’ disease
    Various autoantibodies (TSH receptor, antimicrosomal, and antithyroglobulin) are detected in thyroid disorders like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease. Antimicrosomal (also called as thyroid peroxidase) and anti-thyroglobulin antibodies are observed in almost all patients with Hashimoto’s disease. TSH receptor antibodies (TRAb) are mainly tested in Graves’ disease to predict the outcome after treatment (Box 864.1).
     
    Radioactive Iodine Uptake (RAIU) Test
     
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    Causes of Increased Uptake
     
    • Hyperthyroidism due to Graves’ disease, toxic multinodular goiter, toxic adenoma, TSH-secreting tumor.
     
    Causes of Decreased Uptake
     
    • Hyperthyroidism due to administration of thyroid hormone, factitious hyperthyroidism, subacute thyroiditis.
     
    Uses
     
    RAIU is most helpful in differential diagnosis of hyperthyroidism by separating causes into those due to increased uptake and due to decreased uptake.
     
    Thyroid Scintiscanning
     
    An isotope (99mTc-pertechnetate) is administered and a gamma counter assesses its distribution within the thyroid gland.
     
    Interpretation
     
    • Differential diagnosis of high RAIU thyrotoxicosis:
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    Interpretation of thyroid function tests is shown in Table 164.1.
     
    Table 864.1 Interpretation of thyroid function tests
    Test results Interpretations
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    2. Low TSH, Low FT4 Secondary hypothyroidism
    3. High TSH, Normal FT4 Subclinical hypothyroidism
    4. High TSH, Low FT4 Primary hypothyroidism
    5. Low TSH, Normal FT4, Normal FT3 Subclinical hyperthyroidism
    6. Low TSH, Normal FT4, High FT3 T3 toxicosis
    7. Low TSH, High FT4 Primary hyperthyroidism
     
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  • DISORDERS OF THYROID
    Box 863.1 Terminology in thyroid disorders
    • Primary hyper-/hypothyroidism: Increased or decreased function of thyroid gland due to disease of thyroid itself and not due to increased or decreased levels of TRH or TSH.
    • Secondary hyper-/hypothyroidism: Increased or decreased function of thyroid gland due to increased or decreased levels of TSH.
    • Tertiary hypothyroidism: Decreased function of thyroid gland due to decreased function of hypothalamus.
    • Subclinical thyroid disease: A condition with abnormality of thyroid hormone levels in blood but without specific clinical manifestations of thyroid disease and without any history of thyroid dysfunction or therapy.
    • Subclinical hyperthyroidism: A condition with normal thyroid hormone levels but with low or undetectable TSH level.
    • Subclinical hypothyroidism: A condition with normal thyroxine and triiodothyronine level along with mildly elevated TSH level.
    Among the endocrine disorders, disorders of thyroid are common and are only next in frequency to diabetes mellitus. They are more common in women than in men. Functional thyroid disorders can be divided into two types depending on activity of the thyroid gland: hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormones), and hyperthyroidism (excess thyroid hormones). Any enlargement of thyroid gland is called as a goiter. Terminology related to thyroid disorders is shown in Box 863.1.
     
    Hyperthyroidism
     
    Hyperthyroidism is a condition caused by excessive secretion of thyroid hormone. Causes of hyperthyroidism are listed in Table 863.1.
     
    Table 863.1 Causes of hyperthyroidism
    1. Graves’ disease (Diffuse toxic goiter)
    2. Toxicity in multinodular goiter
    3. Toxicity in adenoma
    4. Subacute thyroiditis
    5. TSH-secreting pituitary adenoma (secondary hyperthyroidism)
    6. Trophoblastic tumours that secrete TSH-like hormone: choriocarcinoma, hydatidiform mole
    7. Factitious hyperthyroidism
     
    Clinical Characteristics
     
    Clinical characteristics of hyperthyroidism are nervousness, anxiety, irritability, insomnia, fine tremors; weight loss despite normal or increased appetite; heat intolerance; increased sweating; dyspnea on exertion; amenorrhea and infertility; palpitations, tachycardia, cardiac arrhythmias, heart failure (especially in elderly); and muscle weakness, proximal myopathy, and osteoporosis (especially in elderly).
     
    The triad of Graves’ disease consists of hyperthyroidism, ophthalmopathy (exophthalmos, lid retraction, lid lag, corneal ulceration, impaired eye muscle function), and dermopathy (pretibial myxoedema).
     
    Box 863.2 Thyroid function tests in hyperthyroidism
    • Thyrotoxicosis:
      Serum TSH low or undetectable
      – Raised total T4 and free T4.
    • T3 toxicosis:
      – Serum TSH undetectable
      – Normal total T4 and free T4
      – Raised T3
    Laboratory Features
     
    In most patients, free serum T3 and T4 are elevated. In T3 thyrotoxicosis (5% cases of thyrotoxicosis), serum T4 levels are normal while T3 is elevated. Serum TSH is low or undetectable (< 0.1 mU/L) (Box 863.2).
     
    Undetectable or low serum TSH along with normal levels of T3 and T4 is called as subclinical hyperthyroidism; subtle signs and symptoms of thyrotoxicosis may or may not be present. Subclinical hyperthyroidism is associated with risk of atrial fibrillation, osteoporosis, and progression to overt thyroid disease.
     
    Features of primary and secondary hyperthyroidism are compared in Table 863.2.
     
    Table 863.2 Differences between primary and secondary hyperthyroidism
    Parameter Primary hyperthyroidism Secondary hyperthyroidism
    1. Serum TSH Low Normal or high
    2. Serum free thyroxine High High
    3. TSH receptor antibodies May be positive Negative
    4. Causes Graves’ disease, toxic multinodular goiter, toxic adenoma Pituitary adenoma
     
    Evaluation of hyperthyroidism is presented in Figure 863.1.
     
    Figure 863.1 Evaluation of hyperthyroidism
    Figure 863.1 Evaluation of hyperthyroidism. TSH: thyroid stimulating hormone; FT4: free T4; FT3: free T3; TRAb: TSH receptor antibody; TRH: Thyrotropin releasing hormone
     
    Hypothyroidism
     
    Hypothyroidism is a condition caused by deficiency of thyroid hormones. Causes of hypothyroidism are listed in Table 863.3. Primary hypothyroidism results from deficient thyroid hormone biosynthesis that is not due to disorders of hypothalamus or pituitary. Secondary hypothyroidism results from deficient secretion of TSH from pituitary. Deficient or loss of secretion of thyro-tropin releasing hormone from hypothalamus results in tertiary hypothyroidism. Secondary and tertiary hypothyroidism are much less common than primary. Plasma TSH is high in primary and low in secondary and tertiary hypothyroidism. Differences between primary and secondary hypothyroidism are shown in Table 863.4.
     
    Table 863.3 Causes of hypothyroidism 
    1. Primary hypothyroidism (Increased TSH)
      • Iodine deficiency
      • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
      Exogenous goitrogens
      • Iatrogenic: surgery, drugs, radiation
    2. Secondary hypothyroidism (Low TSH): Diseases of pituitary
    3. Tertiary hypothyroidism (Low TSH, Low TRH): Diseases of hypothalamus
     
    Table 863.4 Differences between primary and secondary hypothyroidism
    Parameter Primary hypothyroidism Secondary hypothyroidism
    1. Cause Hashimoto’s thyroiditis Pituitary disease
    2. Serum TSH High Low
    3. Thyrotropin releasing hormone stimulation test Exaggerated response No response
    4. Antimicrosomal antibodies Present Absent
     
    Box 863.3 Thyroid function tests in hypothyroidism
    • Primary hypothyroidism
      – Serum TSH: Increased (proportional to degree of hypofunction)
      – Free T4: Decreased
      – TRH stimulation test: Exaggerated response
    • Secondary hypothyroidism
      – Serum TSH: Decreased
      – Free T4: Decreased
      – TRH stimulation test: Absent response
    • Tertiary hypothyroidism
      – Serum TSH: Decreased
      – FT4: Decreased
      – TRH stimulation test: Delayed response
    Clinical features of primary hypothyroidism are: lethargy, mild depression, disturbances in menstruation, weight gain, cold intolerance, dry skin, myopathy, constipation, and firm and lobulated thyroid gland (in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis).
     
    In severe cases, myxoedema coma (an advanced stage with stupor, hypoventilation, and hypothermia) can occur.
     
    Laboratory Features
     
    Laboratory features in hypothyroidism are shown in Box 863.3.
     
    Normal serum thyroxine (T4 and FT4) coupled with a moderately raised TSH (>10 mU/L) is referred to as subclinical hypothyroidism. It is associated with bad obstetrical outcome, poor cognitive development in children, and high risk of hypercholesterolemia and progression to overt hypothyroidism.
     
    Evaluation of hypothyroidism is presented in Figure 863.2
     
    Figure 863.2 Evaluation of hypothyroidism
    Figure 863.2 Evaluation of hypothyroidism. TSH: thyroid stimulating hormone; FT4: free T4; TRH: Thyrotropin releasing hormone
  • FEMALE INFERTILITY: CAUSES AND INVESTIGATIONS
    The ovaries are the sites of production of female gametes or ova by the process of oogenesis. The ova are released by the process of ovulation in a cyclical manner at regular intervals. Ovary contains numerous follicles that contain ova in various stages of development. During each menstrual cycle, up to 20 primordial follicles are activated for maturation; however, only one follicle becomes fully mature; this dominant follicle ruptures to release the secondary oocyte from the ovary. Maturation of the follicle is stimulated by follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) secreted by anterior pituitary (Figure 862.1). Maturing follicle secretes estrogen that causes proliferation of endometrium of the uterus (proliferative phase). Follicular cells also secrete inhibin which regulates release of FSH by the anterior pituitary. Fall in FSH level is followed by secretion of luteinizing hormone (LH) by the anterior pituitary (LH surge). This causes follicle to rupture and the ovum is expelled into the peritoneal cavity near the fimbrial end of the fallopian tube. The fallopian tubes conduct ova from the ovaries to the uterus. Fertilization of ovum by the sperm occurs in the fallopian tube.
     
    Figure 862.1 The hypothalamus pituitary ovarian axis
    Figure 862.1 The hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian axis 
     
    The ovum consists of the secondary oocyte, zona pellucida and corona radiata. The ruptured follicle in the ovary collapses and fills with blood clot (corpus luteum). LH converts granulose cells in the follicle to lutein cells which begin to secrete progesterone. Progesterone stimulates secretion from the endometrial glands (secretory phase) that were earlier under the influence of estrogen. Rising progesterone levels inhibit LH production from the anterior pituitary. Without LH, the corpus luteum regresses and becomes functionless corpus albicans. After regression of corpus luteum, production of estrogen and progesterone stops and endometrium collapses, causing onset of menstruation. If the ovum is fertilized and implanted in the uterine wall, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is secreted by the developing placenta into the maternal circulation. Human chorionic gonadotropin maintains the corpus luteum for secetion of estrogen and progesterone till 12th week of pregnancy. After 12th week, corpus luteum regresses to corpus albicans and the function of synthesis of estrogen and progesterone is taken over by placenta till parturition.
     
    The average duration of the normal menstrual cycle is 28 days. Ovulation occurs around 14th day of the cycle. The time interval between ovulation and menstruation is called as luteal phase and is fairly constant (14 days) (Figure 862.2).
     
    Figure 862.2 Normal menstrual cycle
    Figure 862.2 Normal menstrual cycle
     
    Causes of Female Infertility
     
    Causes of female infertility are shown in Table 862.1.
     
    Table 862.1 Causes of female infertility
    1. Hypothalamic-pituitary dysfunction:
    • Hypothalamic causes
      – Excessive exercise
      – Excess stress
      – Low weight
      – Kallman’s syndrome
      Idiopathic
    • Pituitary causes
      – Hyperprolactinemia
      Hypopituitarism (Sheehan’s syndrome, Simmond’s disease)
      – Craniopharyngioma
      – Cerebral irradiation
     2. Ovarian dysfunction:
    • Polycystic ovarian disease (Stein-Leventhal syndrome)
    • Luteinized unruptured follicle
    • Turner’s syndrome
    • Radiation or chemotherapy
    • Surgical removal of ovaries
    • Idiopathic
     3. Dysfunction in passages:
    • Fallopian tubes
      Infections: Tuberculosis, gonorrhea, Chlamydia
      – Previous surgery (e.g. laparotomy)
      – Tubectomy
      Congenital hypoplasia, non-canalization
      Endometriosis
    • Uterus
      – Uterine malformations
      – Asherman’s syndrome
      – Tuberculous endometritis
      Fibroid
    • Cervix: Sperm antibodies
    • Vagina: Septum
     4. Dysfunction of sexual act: Dyspareunia
     
    Investigations
     
    Evaluation of female infertility is shown in Figure 862.3.
     
    Figure 862.3 Evaluation of female infertility
    Figure 862.3 Evaluation of female infertility. FSH: Follicle stimulating hormone; LH: Luteinizing hormone; DHEA-S: Dihydroepiandrosterone; TSH: Thyroid stimulating hormone; ↑ : Increased; ↓ : Decreased
     
    Tests for Ovulation
     
    Most common cause of female infertility is anovulation.
     
    1. Regular cycles, mastalgia, and laparoscopic direct visualization of corpus luteum indicate ovulatory cycles. Anovulatory cycles are clinically characterized by amenorrhea, oligomenorrhea, or irregular menstruation. However, apparently regular cycles may be associated with anovulation.
    2. Endometrial biopsy: Endometrial biopsy is done during premenstrual period (21st-23rd day of the cycle). The secretory endometrium during the later half of the cycle is an evidence of ovulation.
    3. Ultrasonography (USG): Serial ultrasonography is done from 10th day of the cycle and the size of the dominant follicle is measured. Size >18 mm is indicative of imminent ovulation. Collapse of the follicle with presence of few ml of fluid in the pouch of Douglas is suggestive of ovulation. USG also is helpful for treatment (i.e. timing of coitus or of intrauterine insemination) and diagnosis of luteinized unruptured follicle (absence of collapse of dominant follicle). Transvaginal USG is more sensitive than abdominal USG.
    4. Basal body temperature (BBT): Patient takes her oral temperature at the same time every morning before arising. BBT falls by about 0.5°F at the time of ovulation. During the second (progestational) half of the cycle, temperature is slightly raised above the preovulatory level (rise of 0.5° to 1°F). This is due to the slight pyrogenic action of progesterone and is therefore presumptive evidence of functional corpus luteum.
    5. Cervical mucus study:
      Fern test: During estrogenic phase, a characteristic pattern of fern formation is seen when cervical mucus is spread on a glass slide (Figure 862.4). This ferning disappears after the 21st day of the cycle. If previously observed, its disappearance is presumptive evidence of corpus luteum activity.
      Spinnbarkeit test: Cervical mucus is elastic and withstands stretching upto a distance of over 10 cm. This phenomenon is called Spinnbarkeit or the thread test for the estrogen activity. During the secretory phase, viscosity of the cervical mucus increases and it gets fractured when stretched. This change in cervical mucus is evidence of ovulation.
    6. Vaginal cytology: Karyopyknotic index (KI) is high during estrogenic phase, while it becomes low in secretory phase. This refers to percentage of super-ficial squamous cells with pyknotic nuclei to all mature squamous cells in a lateral vaginal wall smear. Usually minimum of 300 cells are evaluated. The peak KI usually corresponds with time of ovulation and may reach upto 50 to 85.
    7. Estimation of progesterone in mid-luteal phase (day 21 or 7 days before expected menstruation): Progesterone level > 10 nmol/L is a reliable evidence of ovulation if cycles are regular (Figure 862.5). A mistimed sample is a common cause of abnormal result.
     
    Figure 862.4 Ferning of cervical mucosa
    Figure 862.4 Ferning of cervical mucosa
     
    Figure 862.5 Serum progesterone during normal menstrual cycle
    Figure 862.5 Serum progesterone during normal menstrual cycle
     
    Tests to Determine the Cause of Anovulation
     
    1. Measurement of LH, FSH, and estradiol during days 2 to 6: All values are low in hypogonadotropic hypogonadism (hypothalamic or pituitary failure).
    2. Measurement of TSH, prolactin, and testosterone if cycles are irregular or absent:
      Increased TSH: Hypothyroidism
      Increased prolactin: Pituitary adenoma
      Increased testosterone: Polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD), congenital adrenal hyperplasia (To differentiate PCOD from congenital adrenal hyperplasia, ultrasound and estimation of dihydroepiandrosterone or DHEA are done).
    3. Transvaginal ultrasonography: This is done for detection of PCOD.
     
    Investigations to Assess Tubal and Uterine Status
     
    1. Infectious disease: These tests include endometrial biopsy for tuberculosis and test for chlamydial IgG antibodies for tubal factor in infertility.
    2. Hysterosalpingography (HSG): HSG is a radiological contrast study for investigation of the shape of the uterine cavity and for blockage of fallopian tubes (Figure 862.6). A catheter is introduced into the cervical canal and a radiocontrast dye is injected into the uterine cavity. A real time X-ray imaging is carried out to observe the flow of the dye into the uterine cavity, tubes, and spillage into the uterine cavity.
    3. Hysterosalpingo-contrast sonography: A catheter is introduced into the cervical canal and an echocontrast fluid is introduced into the uterine cavity. Shape of the uterine cavity, filling of fallopian tubes, and spillage of contrast fluid are noted. In addition, ultrasound scan of the pelvis provides information about any fibroids or polycystic ovarian disease.
    4. Laparoscopy and dye hydrotubation test with hysteroscopy: In this test, a cannula is inserted into the cervix and methylene blue dye is introduced into the uterine cavity. If tubes are patent, spillage of the dye is observed from the ends of both tubes. This technique also allows visualization of pelvic organs, endometriosis, and pelvic adhesions. If required, endometriosis and tubal blockage can be treated during the procedure.
     
    Possible pregnancy and active pelvic or vaginal infection are contraindications to tubal patency tests.
     
    Figure 862.6 Hysterosalpingography
    Figure 862.6 Hysterosalpingography
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