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Riedel Thyroiditis Clinical Presentation

  • Author: Chris K Guerin, MD, FACE; Chief Editor: George T Griffing, MD  more...
Updated: Apr 25, 2014

History and Physical Examination

Riedel thyroiditis (RT) is characterized by the replacement of normal thyroid parenchyma with dense fibrotic tissue and by the extension of this fibrosis to adjacent structures of the neck. Most patients are euthyroid, but hypothyroidism is noted in approximately 30% of cases. Rarely, hyperthyroidism can occur, but this is probably secondary to a coexisting condition.

Clinical features of RT closely resemble those of anaplastic carcinoma of the thyroid. Patients note a nonpainful, rapidly growing thyroid mass.

Patients typically present with a hard, fixed, painless goiter. The character of the thyroid gland is often described as stony or woody. The onset of the goiter may be sudden, but it is usually gradual.

Local compressive symptoms are frequent and can include the following:

  • Neck tightness or pressure
  • Dyspnea
  • Dysphagia
  • Hoarseness
  • Choking
  • Cough

Such symptoms are the result of the increasing thyroid mass or are due to the extension of the fibrotic process to adjacent neck structures (eg, strap muscles, trachea, esophagus, recurrent laryngeal nerve).

Hypoparathyroidism is rare and presumably reflects fibrotic involvement of the parathyroid glands. Recurrent laryngeal nerve paralysis is also uncommon, but it can be observed in extensive disease.[10]

Approximately one third of patients with RT have an associated extracervical manifestation of multifocal fibrosclerosis. These manifestations can include the following[7] :

  • Retroperitoneal fibrosis
  • Mediastinal fibrosis
  • Orbital pseudotumor
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Sclerosing cholangitis
  • Lacrimal gland fibrosis
  • Fibrosing parotitis
Contributor Information and Disclosures

Chris K Guerin, MD, FACE Director, Diabetes Education Services, Chief, Division of Endocrinology, Tri-City Medical Center; Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Diego School of Medicine

Chris K Guerin, MD, FACE is a member of the following medical societies: American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, American Society of Hypertension, National Lipid Association, American Diabetes Association, Endocrine Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


John Boone, MD Consulting Staff, Department of Otolaryngology, Naval Hospital Oak Harbor

John Boone, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

George T Griffing, MD Professor Emeritus of Medicine, St Louis University School of Medicine

George T Griffing, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Association for the Advancement of Science, International Society for Clinical Densitometry, Southern Society for Clinical Investigation, American College of Medical Practice Executives, American Association for Physician Leadership, American College of Physicians, American Diabetes Association, American Federation for Medical Research, American Heart Association, Central Society for Clinical and Translational Research, Endocrine Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Stephanie L Lee, MD, PhD Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine; Director of Thyroid Health Center, Associate Chief, Section of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Nutrition, Boston Medical Center; Fellow, Association of Clinical Endocrinology

Stephanie L Lee, MD, PhD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Endocrinology, American Thyroid Association, and Endocrine Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Medscape Salary Employment

Kent Wehmeier, MD Professor, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, St Louis University School of Medicine

Kent Wehmeier, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Society of Hypertension, Endocrine Society, and International Society for Clinical Densitometry

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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Gross pathology of Riedel thyroiditis. The cut edge is avascular, with a characteristic white color. Image courtesy of SL Lee.
Riedel thyroiditis. The atrophic thyroid follicles are surrounded by a dense, inflammatory infiltrate composed of lymphocytes, plasma cells, and eosinophils and accompanied by dense fibrosis. The wide bands of keloid-type collagen located between the individual follicles and surrounding clusters are a common feature of this condition.
Riedel thyroiditis. This vein shows infiltration of its wall by a heavy, inflammatory infiltrate.
Riedel thyroiditis. The inflammatory infiltrate and dense, pink bands of fibrosis can obliterate thyroid follicles. Image courtesy of SL Lee.
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