Journal of Endocrinological Investigation

, Volume 37, Issue 12, pp 1175–1179 | Cite as

Thymic hyperplasia in patients with Graves’ disease

  • M. Dalla Costa
  • F. A. Mangano
  • C. BetterleEmail author
Short Review



Graves’ disease (GD) is commonly associated with other autoimmune conditions, and there is also a rare but well documented association between GD and thymic hyperplasia (TH). It is hard to say the real frequency of this latter association because most cases remain asymptomatic and are consequently not thoroughly investigated.

Materials and Methods

We reviewed the literature on GD-related thymus enlargement and found 107 cases published to date. Thymic cancer was only documented in four patients, while the majority of cases were diagnosed as TH. The causative mechanisms behind TH associated with GD have yet to be fully elucidated. Several studies support the hypothesis of a TSH receptor antibody (TRAb) mediating thymic enlargement.


We report on a female GD patient with an incidentally discovered anterior mediastinal mass. Our case is not consistent with the hypothesis of a TRAb-mediated mechanism because the thymus reached its largest volume at the onset of GD and shrank during remission of GD under medical treatment, despite persistently positive TRAb levels.


We support the hypothesis that two different pathogenic mechanisms might be responsible for thymus enlargement: thymic cortical tissue expansion seems to be due to a hyperthyroid state, while lymphoid hyperplasia appears to correlate with immune abnormalities underlying GD.


Graves’ disease Thymic hyperplasia TSH receptor antibody (TRAb) 


Conflict of interest

The authors do not have any conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Italian Society of Endocrinology (SIE) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Endocrine Unit, Department of MedicineUniversity of Padova School of MedicinePadovaItaly
  2. 2.Radiology UnitAzienda Ospedaliera-UniversitariaPadovaItaly

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