Redefinition of Successful Treatment of Patients With Hypothyroidism: Is TSH the Best Biomarker of Euthyroidism?

Stephen P. Fitzgerald, Henrik Falhammar

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In recent years evidence has accumulated supporting a revised view of the nature of euthyroidism and the biomarkers of thyroid function. Within the normal range, variations in thyroid hormone levels are associated with variations in clinical parameters and outcomes. There are therefore no readily identified individually specific optimum levels of thyroid hormones for any individual. Levels around the middle of the normal population range may best reflect euthyroidism. These levels may have evolutionary advantages on the basis that adverse outcomes often increase with divergence from such levels, and physiological processes tend to minimise such inter-individual and intra-individual divergence. In populations of predominantly untreated individuals, levels of thyroid hormones and in particular levels of free thyroxine (FT4) correlate more often with clinical parameters than do levels of thyrotropin (TSH). Levels of thyroid hormones may therefore be regarded as the best available biomarkers of euthyroidism and dysthyroidism. It follows that ‘subclinical hypothyroidism’ (normal FT4/raised TSH levels), rather than being an accurate marker of peripheral tissue hypothyroidism is more a marker of decreased thyroid reserve and prognosis. The recent evidence suggests that treatment of hypothyroxinemia, regardless of the TSH level, and monitoring therapy using FT4 and/or triiodothyronine levels, depending on the replacement regime, may result in more successful treatment of hypothyroidism than relying on thyrotropin levels for patient selection and subsequent treatment monitoring. The equivalents of mid-range levels of thyroid hormones (especially FT4), adjusted by individual comorbidity concerns, may be rational general replacement targets. These implications of the new evidence may create opportunities for novel trials of thyroid replacement therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number920854
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalFrontiers in Endocrinology
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2022


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