The optimal strategy in neonatal screening for congenital hypothyroidism is still a subject of controversy. In Kanagawa Prefecture in Japan, simultaneous thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and T4/fT4 determination has been used, while the results of our program may provide valuable information. Cumulative findings were analysed to determine the type and frequency of thyroid disorders in infants detected by simultaneous TSH and T4/fT4 determination, and the TSH and T4/fT4 screening strategy was validated. A total of 1284130 neonates were screened between October 1979 and September 1997 and infants followed because of low T4/fT4 without elevated TSH (T4 < 51.5 nmol/L or fT4 < 9 pmol/L and TSH < 15 mU/L) were retrospectively analysed. The first survey was carried out within 6 mo of birth and the second in 1998; 258 infants were diagnosed with congenital hypothyroidism at the first medical evaluation, 15 of them with hypothalamo-pituitary hypothyroidism. However, in the second survey, only 8 children were confirmed as having hypothalamo-pituitary hypothyroidism, therefore the incidence detected by the present strategy was 1/160516. Of 8 children with hypothalamo-pituitary hypothyroidism, mental retardation was prevented in 3 owing to early treatment.
Conclusions: Simultaneous measurement of TSH and T4/fT4 is a useful strategy for detecting hypothalamo-pituitary hypothyroidism, but more studies are needed to show the cost-benefits of using this strategy.