Background: Subclinical hypothyroidism (SH) is defined as serum levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) above the upper limit with normal concentrations of free T4 (fT4). Its management remains challenging. The aim of the study was to evaluate clinical and laboratory findings as well as the clinical course of children with SH followed in a third level hospital. Sixty-five patients aged between 2 and 18 years old were retrospectively studied.
Methods: The patients were followed for a median period of 9 months (range 6 months to 24 months). Those who normalized TSH levels were discharged (Group 1). If TSH persisted mildly elevated (5-10μUI/mL) with normal fT4 and negative TPOAb/TgAb, they were classified as Group 2 and followed semi-annually without treatment. Those patients whose TSH raised ≥10μUI/mL or who maintained TSH 5-10μUI/mL and positive TPOAb/TgAb were considered suitable for thyroxin therapy (Group 3, G3).
Results: In 89% of our patients, TSH concentrations spontaneously reverted to normality or remained stable without treatment (Groups 1 and 2), whereas less than 11% progressed to clinical hypothyroidism (Group 3). Baseline TSH was significantly lower in group 1 than in group 3. In group 3 the prevalence of female sex (71%) was higher and TPO antibodies were present in 85% of patients. The risk of developing overt hypothyroidism in patients with positive anti-thyroid antibodies respect to those who normalized TSH was 45 (95%CI 6.5-312.5).
Conclusion: Baseline TSH, female sex and the presence of thyroid autoimmunity were the best predictors of the evolution to SH over time.
Keywords: Child; Cut-off; Screening; Subclinical hypothyroidism.