Effect of perinatal asphyxia on thyroid-stimulating hormone and thyroid hormone levels

Acta Paediatr. 2003;92(3):339-45.


Aim: To compare serum concentrations of thyroid hormones--T4, T3, free T4 (FT4) and reverse T3 (rT3)--and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) found in the umbilical cord blood of term newborns with and without asphyxia and those found in their arterial blood collected between 18 and 24 h after birth. A further aim of the study was to assess the association between severity of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy and altered thyroid hormone and TSH levels, and between mortality and FT4 levels in the arterial blood of newborns between 18 and 24 h of life.

Methods: A case-control study was carried out. The case group comprised 17 term newborns (Apgar score < or = 3 and < or = 5 at the first and fifth minutes; umbilical cord blood pH < or = 7.15) who required bag and mask ventilation for at least one minute immediately after birth. The control group consisted of 17 normal, term newborns (Apgar score > or = 8 and > or = 9 at the first and fifth minutes; umbilical cord blood pH > or = 7.2). Cord blood and arterial blood samples were collected immediately after birth and 18 to 24 h after birth, respectively, and were used in the blood gas analysis and to determine serum concentrations of T4, T3, FT4, rT3 and TSH by radioimmunoassay. All newborns were followed-up until hospital discharge or death.

Results: Gestational age, birthweight, sex, size for gestational age, mode of delivery and skin color (white and non-white) were similar for both groups. No differences were found in mean levels of cord blood TSH, T4, T3 and FT4 between the groups. In the samples collected 18 to 24 h after birth, mean levels of TSH, T4, T3 and FT4 were significantly lower in the asphyxiated group than in the control group. Mean concentrations of arterial TSH, T4 and T3 between 18 and 24 h of life were lower than concentrations found in the cord blood analysis in asphyxiated newborns, but not in controls. In addition, asphyxiated newborns with moderate/severe hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy presented significantly lower mean levels of TSH, T4, T3 and FT4 than those of controls. None of the asphyxiated newborns with FT4 > or = 2.0 ng/dl died; 6 out of the 11 asphyxiated newborns with FT4 < 2.0 ng/dl died.

Conclusions: Serum concentrations of TSH, T4, T3 and FT4 are lower in asphyxiated newborns than in normal newborns between 18 and 24 h of life; this suggests central hypothyroidism secondary to asphyxia. Asphyxiated newborns with moderate/severe hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy present a greater involvement of the thyroid function and consequently a greater risk of death.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Asphyxia Neonatorum / blood*
  • Asphyxia Neonatorum / complications*
  • Asphyxia Neonatorum / mortality
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia-Ischemia, Brain / blood*
  • Hypoxia-Ischemia, Brain / etiology*
  • Hypoxia-Ischemia, Brain / mortality
  • Infant Mortality
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Thyroid Diseases / blood*
  • Thyroid Diseases / etiology*
  • Thyroid Diseases / mortality
  • Thyrotropin / blood*
  • Thyroxine / blood*
  • Time Factors
  • Triiodothyronine / blood*
  • Triiodothyronine, Reverse / blood*


  • Triiodothyronine
  • Triiodothyronine, Reverse
  • Thyrotropin
  • Thyroxine