Although measurement of thyrotropin (thyroid-stimulating hormone; TSH) by radioimmunoassay was a major advance in the laboratory diagnosis of thyroid failure--replacing the time-consuming TSH stimulation test--it was not sufficiently sensitive to discriminate reliably between euthyroid and hyperthyroid patients. Measurement of the TSH response to thyrotropin releasing hormone (TRH) served this purpose, however. The recent development of TSH assays that are severalfold more sensitive and more specific than conventional radioimmunoassays has allowed distinction of euthyroid from hyperthyroid patients and eliminated the need for the TRH test. Although undetectable levels of TSH, compatible with hyperthyroidism, are occasionally noted in euthyroid patients with severe nonthyroidal illness and during the first trimester of pregnancy, false-positive results are less often recorded for TSH than for free or total thyroid hormone measurements. Measurement of TSH by sensitive immunoradiometric assay is currently the most useful first-line test of thyroid function in patients with suspected thyroid disease and, in addition, has a valuable role in monitoring the dose of thyroxine replacement therapy.