Newborn screening for congenital hypothyroidism (CH), is one of the major achievements of medicine because early diagnosis and treatment has resulted in normal development in the vast majority of cases. However, all studies on outcome report up to 10% of patients with residual problems regarding mental development and neurological symptoms despite early diagnosis. Factors clearly associated with a less favourable outcome are late onset and an inadequate dosage of thyroid hormone substitution, a poor social-economic environment and compliance problems, while the impact of severity of CH at diagnosis on outcome is not completely settled, although most studies demonstrate a correlation between severity of hypothyroidism and poorer outcome. More recently in a few cases the molecular basis of CH has been clarified. It has become evident that, in some patients with persistent mental retardation and neurological symptoms, defects in transcription factors which are expressed in the thyroid gland as well as in the central nervous system (CNS) during embryonic development cause both defective thyroid and CNS development. The clarification of further molecular defects which affect the thyroid gland and brain development will help us to understand the poor outcome of patients with CH in the era of newborn screening and these diagnostic advances will ensure adequate counselling and care for these patients.
Copyright 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd.