Thyrotoxic periodic paralysis complicated by life-threatening acute hypercapnic respiratory failure in a Chinese male with painless thyroiditis

CONTEXT Thyrotoxic periodic paralysis (TPP) is a relatively common complication seen in Asian hyperthyroid patients. However, it is a rare occurrence to find a TPP case comprised of acute hypercapnic respiratory failure in patients with painless thyroiditis.
PATIENT A 29-year-old Chinese man presented with flaccid paralysis of all four limbs and he was brought to emergency room. Severe hypokalemia was found on admission. Although treatment had been initiated with potassium chloride supplementation, he went on to develop acute hypercapnic respiratory failure likely due to muscle fatigue. The patient was intubated for mechanical ventilatory support. Once his serum potassium levels were normalized, he was able to be weaned off ventilator support. Thyroid function tests showed elevated free thyroxine concentration and low thyroid-stimulating hormone concentration. He underwent a thyroid uptake scan with 131 I which revealed decreased uptake rate of thyroid area. Based on the patient's clinical presentation and associated findings, we diagnosed him with TPP due to painless thyroiditis. We have reviewed TPP cases caused by painless thyroiditis and TPP cases associated with acute hypercapnic respiratory failure.
CONCLUSION It is important to note that potentially fatal complications such as acute hypercapnic respiratory failure might occur in acute attacks of TPP even in cases of TPP due to painless thyroiditis.

as reported in: Am J Emerg Med. 2019 Feb; 37(2): 379.e1-379.e3