Levothyroxine dosage is associated with stability of thyroid-stimulating hormone values

Am J Med. 2014 Mar;127(3):240-5. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2013.11.012. Epub 2013 Dec 11.


Objective: In patients treated for hypothyroidism, the usual practice is to monitor thyroid-stimulating hormone values yearly once a therapeutic dosage of levothyroxine is determined. This study investigates whether there are any clinical predictors that could identify a subset of patients who might be monitored safely on a less frequent basis.

Methods: With the use of a retrospective study design, 715 patients treated for hypothyroidism who had a normal (ie, therapeutic) thyroid-stimulating hormone value in 2006 while taking levothyroxine were identified. All thyroid-stimulating hormone values were then obtained through December 31, 2012. By using a Cox proportional hazard model, gender, age, body mass index, history of chronic autoimmune thyroiditis, initial thyroid-stimulating hormone level, and levothyroxine dose were analyzed for time to first abnormal thyroid-stimulating hormone value.

Results: Age, gender, history of chronic autoimmune thyroiditis, and body mass index at the time of initial normal thyroid-stimulating hormone were not associated significantly with time to abnormal thyroid-stimulating hormone value. Levothyroxine dose >125 μg/day had an increased hazard ratio of 2.4 (95% confidence interval, 1.7-3.4; P < .0001) for time to first follow-up abnormal thyroid-stimulating hormone value, but dosages less than that did not increase the hazard ratio. One year after the initial normal thyroid-stimulating hormone value, 91.1% of patients taking ≤ 125 μg/day had a continued normal thyroid-stimulating hormone, whereas only 73.3% of patients taking >125 μg/day did. Transformed thyroid-stimulating hormone value (which represents a measure of how far the initial thyroid-stimulating hormone was from the midpoint of the normal range) also had an increased hazard ratio of 1.14 (95% confidence interval, 1.1-1.2; P < .0001) for time to first abnormal thyroid-stimulating hormone value.

Conclusions: For patients receiving ≤ 125 μg/day of levothyroxine, we propose that a testing interval up to 2 years may be acceptable if their thyroid-stimulating hormone is well within the normal range.

Keywords: Hypothyroidism; Hypothyroidism treatment; Levothyroxine dosage; Thyroid-stimulating hormone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypothyroidism / blood*
  • Hypothyroidism / drug therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Thyrotropin / blood*
  • Thyroxine / administration & dosage*
  • Time Factors


  • Biomarkers
  • Thyrotropin
  • Thyroxine