Medscape is available in 5 Language Editions – Choose your Edition here.


Thyroid Storm Medication

  • Author: Madhusmita Misra, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Stephen Kemp, MD, PhD  more...
Updated: Jun 20, 2016

Medication Summary

Therapy is aimed at (1) ameliorating hyperadrenergic effects of thyroid hormone (TH) on peripheral tissues with use of beta-blockers (eg, propranolol, labetalol); (2) decreasing further synthesis of THs with antithyroid medications (eg, propylthiouracil [PTU], methimazole); (3) decreasing hormonal release from the thyroid, using iodides; and (4) preventing further TH secretion and peripheral conversion of T4 to T3, using glucocorticoids or iodinated radiocontrast dyes when available.

Based on evidence and frequency estimates, Rivkees and Mattison have raised significant concerns regarding the potential for severe liver disease in children due to PTU.[13] This side effect is not seen with methimazole, and current recommendations (endorsed by the Endocrine Society) are to preferentially use methimazole in the pediatric population for treatment of Graves disease. The use of PTU in conditions of thyroid storm was not specifically addressed; however, the use of PTU may be preferred in this setting because of the ability of this drug to inhibit conversion of T4 to T3.



Class Summary

These agents belong to the thioureylene (thionamide) class and inhibit synthesis of THs within 1-2 hours. They have no effect on decreasing the release of preformed THs.

Propylthiouracil (PTU, Propyl-Thyracil)


DOC that inhibits synthesis of TH by preventing organification and trapping of iodide to iodine and by inhibiting coupling of iodotyrosines; also inhibits peripheral conversion of T4 to T3, an important component of management.

Comatose patients may require administration via NG tube because the agent is available solely as PO preparation; has been successfully administered PR as an enema or suppository. Very rarely, in patients who cannot take the medication PO, via NG, or PR, IV administration has been described. The IV preparation should be made by the hospital pharmacy by dissolving tablets in normal saline rendered alkaline by adding sodium hydroxide to obtain a pH of 9.25; it is essential to ensure sterility.

Methimazole (Tapazole)


Inhibits synthesis of TH by preventing organification of iodide to iodine and coupling of iodotyrosines. Although at least 10 times more potent than PTU on a weight basis, it does not inhibit peripheral conversion of T4 to T3. May be used instead of PTU in thyroid storm if iodinated radiocontrast agents are used in conjunction to prevent the conversion of T4 to T3 or if the condition is not life-threatening.

Comatose patients may require administration via NG tube because agent is available only as a PO preparation. In rare instances, it may be necessary to administer methimazole PR as an enema or suppository or IV after dissolving tablets in normal saline at a neutral pH and filtering the solution through a fine filter. PR and IV preparations should be made by the hospital pharmacy; it is essential to ensure sterility of IV preparations.



Class Summary

Iodides inhibit the release of TH from the thyroid gland. Precede iodide administration with thionamides by at least 1 hour to prevent increased intrathyroidal TH synthesis. Iodinated radiographic contrast dyes that contain ipodate (Oragrafin) or iopanoic acid (Telepaque) have also been used and effectively prevent conversion of T4 to T3. However, their utility in childhood thyroid storm is untested. Another benefit of these radiocontrast agents is the once-daily dosing regimen, as opposed to 3-4 daily doses with iodine-containing oral solutions. Currently, these radiocontrast agents are no longer available in the United States. Lithium carbonate may be used if the patient is hypersensitive to iodine.

Potassium iodide, saturated solution (Pima, SSKI, Thyro-Block)


This agent is used to inhibit TH release from the thyroid gland. One mL of SSKI contains 1 g of potassium iodide or 750 mg of iodide (ie, approximately 50 mg iodide/drop and 15 drops per mL). Because of the viscosity, SSKI comes as 15 drops per mL rather than the usual 20 drops per mL.

Strong iodine (Lugol Solution)


Contains 100 mg potassium iodide and 50 mg iodine; provided 8 mg iodide/drop, 20 drops per ml.


Beta- blockers

Class Summary

These agents are used as the mainstay therapy to control autonomic effects of TH. Beta-blockers also block peripheral conversion of T4 to T3. Esmolol, a short-acting selective beta 1-antagonist, has been used successfully in children, as has labetalol in adults. Beta-blockers should be used with caution in congestive cardiac failure and thyrotoxic cardiomyopathy. In the latter case, they have been known to precipitate cardiac arrest.

Propranolol (Inderal)


DOC most widely used in this group; is a nonselective beta–adrenergic antagonist. Decreases heart rate, myocardial contractility, BP, and myocardial oxygen demand. Often the only adjunctive drug needed to control thyroid storm symptoms.

Esmolol (Brevibloc)


Beta 1–specific antagonist with a short duration of action.



Class Summary

These agents block conversion of T4 to T3. The use of corticosteroids has been associated with improved survival. Stress doses are required to replace accelerated production and degradation of cortisol induced by TH. If corticosteroids are not administered, acute glucocorticoid deficiency hypothetically could occur because demand may outpace production.

Hydrocortisone (Solu-Cortef)


Hydrocortisone provides mineralocorticoid activity and glucocorticoid effects and may help ameliorate decreased adrenal reserve. It reduces the conversion of T4 to T3.

Dexamethasone (Decadron)


Dexamethasone elicits glucocorticoid effects; however, hydrocortisone is preferred in thyroid storm.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Madhusmita Misra, MD, MPH Associate Professor in Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School; Consulting Staff, Fellowship Program Director, Division of Pediatric Endocrinology, Massachusetts General Hospital

Madhusmita Misra, MD, MPH is a member of the following medical societies: American Pediatric Society, American Society for Bone and Mineral Research, Endocrine Society, Pediatric Endocrine Society, Society for Pediatric Research

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Abhay Singhal, MD, MS, MD 

Abhay Singhal, MD, MS, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Deborah E Campbell, MD, FAAP Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine; Director, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, Children's Hospital at Montefiore

Deborah E Campbell, MD, FAAP is a member of the following medical societies: Academic Pediatric Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Pediatric Society, American Medical Association, National Perinatal Association, New York Academy of Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Mary L Windle, PharmD Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Lynne Lipton Levitsky, MD Chief, Pediatric Endocrine Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital; Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School

Lynne Lipton Levitsky, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Diabetes Association, American Pediatric Society, Endocrine Society, Pediatric Endocrine Society, Society for Pediatric Research

Disclosure: Received grant/research funds from Eli Lilly for pi; Received grant/research funds from NovoNordisk for pi; Received consulting fee from NovoNordisk for consulting; Partner received consulting fee from Onyx Heart Valve for consulting.

Chief Editor

Stephen Kemp, MD, PhD Former Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Section of Pediatric Endocrinology, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Medicine, Arkansas Children's Hospital

Stephen Kemp, MD, PhD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, American Pediatric Society, Endocrine Society, Phi Beta Kappa, Southern Medical Association, Southern Society for Pediatric Research

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Phyllis W Speiser, MD Chief, Division of Pediatric Endocrinology, Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York; Professor of Pediatrics, Hofstra-North Shore LIJ School of Medicine at Hofstra University

Phyllis W Speiser, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, Endocrine Society, Pediatric Endocrine Society, Society for Pediatric Research

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

  1. Aiello DP, DuPlessis AJ, Pattishall EG 3rd, Kulin HE. Thyroid storm. Presenting with coma and seizures. In a 3-year-old girl. Clin Pediatr (Phila). 1989 Dec. 28 (12):571-4. [Medline].

  2. Hirvonen EA, Niskanen LK, Niskanen MM. Thyroid storm prior to induction of anaesthesia. Anaesthesia. 2004 Oct. 59(10):1020-2. [Medline].

  3. Kadmon PM, Noto RB, Boney CM, et al. Thyroid storm in a child following radioactive iodine (RAI) therapy: a consequence of RAI versus withdrawal of antithyroid medication. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2001 May. 86(5):1865-7. [Medline]. [Full Text].

  4. Alkhuja S, Pyram R, Odeyemi O. In the eye of the storm: iodinated contrast medium induced thyroid storm presenting as cardiopulmonary arrest. Heart Lung. 2013 Jul-Aug. 42(4):267-9. [Medline].

  5. Lawless ST, Reeves G, Bowen JR. The development of thyroid storm in a child with McCune-Albright syndrome after orthopedic surgery. Am J Dis Child. 1992 Sep. 146(9):1099-102. [Medline].

  6. Ono Y, Ono S, Yasunaga H, Matsui H, Fushimi K, Tanaka Y. Factors Associated With Mortality of Thyroid Storm: Analysis Using a National Inpatient Database in Japan. Medicine (Baltimore). 2016 Feb. 95 (7):e2848. [Medline].

  7. Swee du S, Chng CL, Lim A. Clinical characteristics and outcome of thyroid storm: a case series and review of neuropsychiatric derangements in thyrotoxicosis. Endocr Pract. 2015 Feb 1. 21 (2):182-9. [Medline].

  8. Burch HB, Wartofsky L. Life-threatening thyrotoxicosis. Thyroid storm. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am. 1993 Jun. 22(2):263-77. [Medline].

  9. Hasan MK, Tierney WM, Baker MZ. Severe cholestatic jaundice in hyperthyroidism after treatment with 131-iodine. Am J Med Sci. 2004 Dec. 328(6):348-50. [Medline].

  10. Umezu T, Ashitani K, Toda T, Yanagawa T. A patient who experienced thyroid storm complicated by rhabdomyolysis, deep vein thrombosis, and a silent pulmonary embolism: a case report. BMC Res Notes. 2013 May 20. 6(1):198. [Medline]. [Full Text].

  11. US Food and Drug Administration. FDA MedWatch Safety Alerts for Human Medical Products. Propylthiouracil (PTU). Available at Accessed: June 3, 2009.

  12. Petry J, Van Schil PE, Abrams P, Jorens PG. Plasmapheresis as effective treatment for thyrotoxic storm after sleeve pneumonectomy. Ann Thorac Surg. 2004 May. 77(5):1839-41. [Medline].

  13. [Guideline] Rivkees SA, Mattison DR. Ending propylthiouracil-induced liver failure in children. N Engl J Med. 2009. 360(15):1574-5. [Medline]. [Full Text].

  14. Al-Anazi KA, Inam S, Jeha MT, Judzewitch R. Thyrotoxic crisis induced by cytotoxic chemotherapy. Support Care Cancer. 2005 Mar. 13(3):196-8. [Medline].

  15. Knighton JD, Crosse MM. Anesthetic management of childhood thyrotoxicosis and the use of esmolol. Anaesthesia. 1997. 52(1):67-70. [Medline].

  16. Misra M, Levitsky LL, Lee MM. Transient hyperthyroidism in an adolescent with hydatidiform mole. J Pediatr. 2002 Mar. 140(3):362-6. [Medline].

  17. Morrison MP, Schroeder A. Intraoperative identification and management of thyroid storm in children. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2007 Jan. 136(1):132-3. [Medline].

  18. Ngo AS, Jung Tan DC. Thyrotoxic heart disease. Resuscitation. 2006 Jun 26. [Medline].

  19. Rogers MC, Nichols DG. Thyroid storm. Textbook of Pediatric Intensive Care. Baltimore, MD: Williams & Williams; 1996. 3rd ed: 1291-95.

  20. Sebe A, Satar S, Sari A. Thyroid storm induced by aspirin intoxication and the effect of hemodialysis: a case report. Adv Ther. 2004 May-Jun. 21(3):173-7. [Medline].

  21. Tietgens ST, Leinung MC. Thyroid Storm. Medical Clinics of North America. 1995. 79(1):169-84. [Medline].

  22. Ureta-Raroque SS, Abramo TJ. Adolescent female patient with shock unresponsive to usual resuscitative therapy. Pediatr Emerg Care. 1997 Aug. 13(4):274-6. [Medline].

  23. Wartofsky L. Thyroid storm. Werner and Ingbar's The Thyroid: A Fundamental and Clinical Text. 6th ed. 1991. 871-79.

  24. Wilson BE, Hobbs WN. Case report: pseudoephedrine-associated thyroid storm: thyroid hormone- catecholamine interactions. Am J Med Sci. 1993 Nov. 306(5):317-9. [Medline].

  25. Yoon SJ, Kim DM, Kim JU, et al. A case of thyroid storm due to thyrotoxicosis factitia. Yonsei Med J. 2003 Apr 30. 44(2):351-4. [Medline].

Pathophysiologic mechanisms of Graves disease relating thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulins to hyperthyroidism and ophthalmopathy. T4 is levothyroxine. T3 is triiodothyronine.
All material on this website is protected by copyright, Copyright © 1994-2016 by WebMD LLC. This website also contains material copyrighted by 3rd parties.