The prevalence of hypothyroxinemia in premature newborns

Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2022 Aug 10:13:940152. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2022.940152. eCollection 2022.


Congenital hypothyroidism diagnosed by TSH assessment in bloodspot screening may be overlooked in preterm newborns due to immaturity of the hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid axis in them. The purpose of the study was to determine the prevalence and causes of hypothyroxinemia in preterm newborns, determined by TSH and FT4 serum concentration measurement, performed on the 3-5th day of life. We assessed TSH, FT4 and FT3 serum concentration on the 3-5th day of life in preterm children born at our centre within three consecutive years. We assessed the incidence of hypothyroxinemia, and its cause: primary hypothyroidism, secondary hypothyroidism or low FT4 syndrome - with normal TSH concentration, its dependence - among others - on gestational age (GA), birth body weight (BBW) and being SGA. A total of 525 preterm children were examined. FT4 concentration was decreased in 14.9% of preterm newborns. The most frequent cause of hypothyroxinemia was low FT4 syndrome (79.5%). More than 92% cases of hypothyroxinemia occurred in children born before the 32nd week and/or with BBW below 1500 g. Thus, every fourth child in these groups had a reduced FT4 concentration. Neonates with hypothyroxinemia were significantly lighter than those with normal FT4. In older and heavier neonates with hypothyroxinemia, serious congenital defects were observed. Neither IVH nor SGA nor twin pregnancies predispose children to hypothyroxinemia. Among newborns with untreated hypothyroxinemia in whom TSH and FT4 assessment was repeated within 2-5 weeks, a decreased FT4 concentration was confirmed in 56.1% of cases. As hypothyroxinemia affects 25% of newborns born before the 32nd week of gestation and those in whom BBW is less than 1500g, it seems that in this group of children the newborn screening should be extended to measure serum TSH and FT4 concentration between the 3-5th day of life. In older and heavier neonates, additional serum TSH and FT4 assessment should be limited to children with severe congenital abnormalities but not to all SGA or twins. Despite the fact that the most common form of preterm hypothyroxinemia is low FT4 syndrome, it should be emphasized that FT4 remains lowered on subsequent testing in more them 50% of cases.

Keywords: congenital hypothyroidism; hypothyroxinemia; neonatal screening; preterm newborns; small for gestational age; thyroid hormones; thyroid stimulating hormone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Birth Weight
  • Child
  • Congenital Hypothyroidism*
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications*
  • Prevalence
  • Thyrotropin


  • Thyrotropin