Thyroid hormone and its metabolites in relation to quality of life in patients treated for differentiated thyroid cancer

Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2016 Nov;85(5):781-788. doi: 10.1111/cen.13101. Epub 2016 Jun 13.


Background: Levothyroxine (LT4) is the standard of care in patients with hypothyroidism. Despite this replacement therapy, quality of life (QoL) remains impaired in a substantial amount of patients. The reasons for this are still a matter of debate. Suggested causes include lack of endogenous T3 secretion by the thyroid, changes in other thyroid hormone metabolites and interference by autoimmune processes.

Objective: To investigate the association between thyroid function tests (TFTs) and QoL in patients with a history of differentiated thyroid cancer on LT4 monotherapy. These patients lack endogenous thyroidal T3 secretion in the absence of autoimmune disease.

Materials and methods: This is a cross-sectional study in 143 patients (69·2% female). Initial therapy consisted of total thyroidectomy followed by radioiodine ablation minimally one year before inclusion. We assessed health-related QoL (RAND-36), thyroid-specific QoL (ThyPRO) and fatigue with the Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory. Extensive TFTs were assessed, including 3,5-diiodo-L-thyronine (3,5-T2).

Results: Mean age was 50·2 years and mean time since diagnosis was 8·4 years. Median TSH was 0·042 mU/l, total T4 145·0 nmol/l, free T4 25·6 pmol/l, total T3 1·93 nmol/l, reverse T3 0·53 nmol/l and 3,5-T2 0·86 nmol/l. Multiple linear regression analyses did not show any association between QoL and the different TFTs, including T4/T3 and 3,5-T2/T3 ratios reflecting peripheral metabolism.

Conclusion: We did not find any association between TFTs and QoL in athyreotic patients on LT4 monotherapy. Our data do not provide evidence that a slight increase in dose improves fatigue or well-being in hypothyroid patients on LT4 therapy.

MeSH terms

  • Fatigue
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life*
  • Thyroid Function Tests
  • Thyroid Hormones / blood*
  • Thyroid Hormones / metabolism
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Thyroxine / therapeutic use*
  • Triiodothyronine / blood


  • Thyroid Hormones
  • Triiodothyronine
  • Thyroxine