High levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone are associated with aortic wall thickness in the general population

Eur Radiol. 2016 Dec;26(12):4490-4496. doi: 10.1007/s00330-016-4316-4. Epub 2016 Mar 14.


Objectives: Our aim was to investigate the association of thyroid function defined by serum concentrations of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) with thoracic aortic wall thickness (AWT) as a marker of atherosclerotic processes.

Methods: We pooled data of 2,679 individuals from two independent population-based surveys of the Study of Health in Pomerania. Aortic diameter and AWT measurements were performed on a 1.5-T MRI scanner at the concentration of the right pulmonary artery displaying the ascending and the descending aorta.

Results: TSH, treated as continuous variable, was significantly associated with descending AWT (β = 0.11; 95 % confidence interval (CI) 0.02-0.21), while the association with ascending AWT was not statistically significant (β = 0.20; 95 % CI -0.01-0.21). High TSH (>3.29 mIU/L) was significantly associated with ascending (β = 0.12; 95 % CI 0.02-0.23) but not with descending AWT (β = 0.06; 95 % CI -0.04-0.16). There was no consistent association between TSH and aortic diameters.

Conclusions: Our study demonstrated that AWT values increase with increasing serum TSH concentrations. Thus, a hypothyroid state may be indicative for aortic atherosclerosis. These results fit very well to the findings of previous studies pointing towards increased atherosclerotic risk in the hypothyroid state.

Key points: • Serum TSH concentrations are positively associated with aortic wall thickness. • Serum TSH concentrations are not associated with the aortic diameters. • Serum 3,5-diiodothyronine concentrations may be positively associated with aortic wall thickness.

Keywords: 3,5-diiodothyronine; Aorta; Atherosclerosis; Epidemiology; High thyrotropin.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aorta / diagnostic imaging*
  • Aorta / pathology
  • Aortic Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Aortic Diseases / pathology
  • Atherosclerosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Atherosclerosis / pathology
  • Diiodothyronines / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Organ Size
  • Thyrotropin / blood*
  • Young Adult


  • Diiodothyronines
  • 3,5-diiodothyronine
  • Thyrotropin