Evaluation and clinical application of changes in thyroid hormone and TSH levels in critically ill full-term newborns

Gustavo S. Goldsmit 1 , Martin Valdes 1 , Viviana Herzovich 2 , Susana Rodriguez 1 , Eduardo Chaler 2 , Sergio G. Golombek 3  and Sonia Iorcansky 2
  • 1 Neonatology, Hospital Nacional de Pediatria JP Garrahan, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • 2 Endocrinology, Hospital Nacional de Pediatria JP Garrahan, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • 3 The Regional Neonatal Center, Maria Fareri Children's Hospital at Westchester Medical Center/New York Medical College, Valhalla, NY, USA


Introduction: The term “euthyroid sick syndrome” (ESS) has been used to describe a pattern of thyroid hormone changes during the course of critical illness in adult patients without thyroid disease, often associated with reduced thyroid hormone secretion.

Objective: To describe the thyroid hormone profile in full-term newborns critically ill compared with thyroid hormone profile of healthy infants, and determine if alterations could be related to the severity of the disease and outcome.

Methods: A cross-sectional, observational, and prospective study of full-term infants admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) of the Hospital de Pediatría J.P. Garrahan between July 2007 and April 2008. Serum T3, T4, and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels were measured at admission and severity of the disease was evaluated through SNAP, lactic acid, respiratory assistance and number of organs affected.

Results: Sick newborns showed significantly lower T3 and T4 levels compared with healthy infants [T3: –0.97 μg/dL (95% CI –0.89, –1.13) and T4: –4.37 μg/dL (95% CI –2.95, –5.78)]. Only 29 out of 94 (31%) infants presented a normal profile; 37 (39%) infants showed isolated low T3 levels, 20 (21%) infants had low T3 and T4 levels and eight (9%) infants had low TSH, T3, and T4. Of this latter group, five of eight (62%) children died suggesting a significantly higher risk of death for patients with low T3 associated with low T4 and TSH [Risk ratio (RR) 10.75 95% CI 3.93, 29].

Conclusions: Full-term sick newborns frequently have lower thyroid hormone levels than healthy ones. These observed thyroid hormones changes might be related to the underlying disease and could be used as a prognostic marker of the severity and fatal outcome of the patient.

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