An increasing number of cases of subacute thyroiditis (SAT) related to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and its vaccines continue to be published. The aim of this study was to investigate any change in the incidence and characteristics of SAT by comparing the pre-pandemic and pandemic periods.
This retrospective, single-center study included 432 newly-diagnosed SAT patients between January 2018 and December 2021. The annual frequency of SAT was calculated as the number of newly-diagnosed SAT cases divided by the total number of outpatients that year.
The frequencies of newly-diagnosed SAT were 0.136% in 2018, 0.127% in 2019, 0.157% in 2020, and 0.114% in 2021 (p = 0.19). While SAT patients were clustered in the autumn (35.1%) in 2018 and 2019, it was found that this cluster shifted to the winter (33.0%) in 2020 and 2021, in parallel with COVID-19 case peaks (p = 0.017). The patients were separated into two groups as pre-COVID-19 pandemic SAT (n = 272) and COVID-19 pandemic SAT (n = 160). The mean ages of the groups were similar. There were more male patients in the COVID-19 pandemic SAT group than in the pre-pandemic group (30.6% vs. 18.7%, p = 0.005). Frequencies of overt hyperthyroidism and median free-thyroxine levels were significantly higher in the COVID-19 pandemic SAT group (p = 0.029, p = 0.001). Treatment modalities, recurrence rates, and permanent hypothyroidism were similar in both groups.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, although there was a change in seasonal variation of SAT and an increase in the number of male patients, there was no change in the incidence and clinical course of SAT.