Epidemiology and clinical characteristics of congenital hypothyroidism in an Asian population: a nationwide population-based study

J Epidemiol. 2013;23(2):85-94. doi: 10.2188/jea.je20120113. Epub 2012 Dec 29.


Background: The incidence of congenital hypothyroidism (CH) has been increasing in Western countries, and some populations, including Asians, have a higher incidence. Delayed diagnosis and early treatment influence the outcome of CH. We investigated the incidence and clinical characteristics of CH in Taiwan.

Methods: In this retrospective database study we identified cases of CH diagnosed during 1997-2008 in the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database (NHIRD). Patients who had a Serious Accidents and Diseases certificate were included in the incidence calculation. We focused on CH patients who were born during 1997-2003 and determined their age at diagnosis and CH-related clinical features. Mental retardation and physiological delays were evaluated with respect to age at diagnosis.

Results: A total of 1482 cases were identified. Incidence during the 12-year period was 5.02 per 10 000 births. Among 1115 patients, the most common clinical features of CH were developmental delay (9.6%), constipation (11.6%), and delayed physiological development (9.1%). Congenital anomalies of the heart (7.7%), epilepsy (2.7%), and infantile cerebral palsy (3.2%) were also noted. Survival analysis showed that the risks of mental retardation (hazard ratio [HR], 3.180) and delayed physiological development (HR, 1.908) were greater when age at diagnosis was greater than 1 year.

Conclusions: CH incidence was higher in Taiwan than in Western countries. Early diagnosis may decrease the risk of mental and physiological delay.

MeSH terms

  • Age Distribution
  • Asians / statistics & numerical data*
  • Congenital Hypothyroidism / diagnosis*
  • Congenital Hypothyroidism / ethnology*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Delayed Diagnosis
  • Developmental Disabilities / ethnology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Taiwan / epidemiology