The usefulness of routine calcitonin measurement for early detection of medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) in patients with nodular thyroid disease (NTD) has been investigated in various studies. Recently, a Cochrane review has been published on this issue, but a meta-analysis is lacking yet. Therefore, we performed this meta-analysis.
We performed an electronic search using PubMed/Medline, Embase and the Cochrane Library. Studies assessing the diagnostic accuracy of routine calcitonin measurement for detecting MTC in patients with NDT were selected. Statistics were performed by using Stata software, risk of bias was assessed using Review Manager version 5.3.
Seventeen studies, involving 74,407 patients were included in the study. Meta-analysis, using the bivariate random effects model and the hierarchical summary receiver operating characteristic (HSROC) curve revealed the following pooled estimates: sensitivity 0.99 (95% CI, 0.81–1.00), specificity 0.99 (95% CI, 0.97–0.99), positive likelihood ratio (L+) 72.4 (95% CI, 32.3–162.1), and negative likelihood ratio (L−) 0.01 (95% CI, 0.00–0.23). Meta-regression analysis showed that the threshold of basal calcitonin is an independent factor, but in particular performing stimulation test is not an independent factor.
We showed that routine basal serum calcitonin measurement in the management of patients with thyroid nodules is valuable for the detection of MTC. However, the published cut-off values should be considered and, if applicable, the patients monitored in a wait-and-see strategy by experienced physicians to avoid overtreatment.