Context: Subclinical hypothyroidism (SCH) and cognitive dysfunction are both common in the elderly and have been linked. It is important to determine whether T4 replacement therapy in SCH confers cognitive benefit.
Objective: Our objective was to determine whether administration of T4 replacement to achieve biochemical euthyroidism in subjects with SCH improves cognitive function.
Design and setting: We conducted a double-blind placebo-controlled randomized controlled trial in the context of United Kingdom primary care.
Patients: Ninety-four subjects aged 65 yr and over (57 females, 37 males) with SCH were recruited from a population of 147 identified by screening.
Intervention: T4 or placebo was given at an initial dosage of one tablet of either placebo or 25 microg T4 per day for 12 months. Thyroid function tests were performed at 8-weekly intervals with dosage adjusted in one-tablet increments to achieve TSH within the reference range for subjects in treatment arm. Fifty-two subjects received T4 (31 females, 21 males; mean age 73.5 yr, range 65-94 yr); 42 subjects received placebo (26 females, 16 males; mean age 74.2 yr, 66-84 yr).
Main outcome measures: Mini-Mental State Examination, Middlesex Elderly Assessment of Mental State (covering orientation, learning, memory, numeracy, perception, attention, and language skills), and Trail-Making A and B were administered.
Results: Eighty-two percent and 84% in the T4 group achieved euthyroidism at 6- and 12-month intervals, respectively. Cognitive function scores at baseline and 6 and 12 months were as follows: Mini-Mental State Examination T4 group, 28.26, 28.9, and 28.28, and placebo group, 28.17, 27.82, and 28.25 [not significant (NS)]; Middlesex Elderly Assessment of Mental State T4 group, 11.72, 11.67, and 11.78, and placebo group, 11.21, 11.47, and 11.44 (NS); Trail-Making A T4 group, 45.72, 47.65, and 44.52, and placebo group, 50.29, 49.00, and 46.97 (NS); and Trail-Making B T4 group, 110.57, 106.61, and 96.67, and placebo group, 131.46, 119.13, and 108.38 (NS). Linear mixed-model analysis demonstrated no significant changes in any of the measures of cognitive function over time and no between-group difference in cognitive scores at 6 and 12 months.
Conclusions: This RCT provides no evidence for treating elderly subjects with SCH with T4 replacement therapy to improve cognitive function.