Open Access

Transient high thyroid stimulating hormone and hypothyroidism incidence during follow up of subclinical hypothyroidism


Objectives. Given the high prevalence of subclinical hypothyroidism (SCH), defined as high thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and normal free thyroxine (FT4), and uncertainty on treatment, one of the major challenges in clinical practice is whether to initiate the treatment for SCH or to keep the patients under surveillance. There is no published study that has identified predictors of short-term changes in thyroid status amongst patients with mild elevation of TSH (4.5–10 mIU/L).

Subjects and Results. A cohort study was conducted on patients with SCH detected through a general population screening program, who were followed for six months. This project identified factors predicting progression to hypothyroid status, persistent SCH and transient cases. A total of 656 participants joined the study (431 controls and 225 were patients with SCH). A part of participants (12.2%) developed biochemical hypothyroidism during the follow-up, while 73.8% of the subjects became euthyroid and the remained ones (13.4%) stayed in the SCH status. The incidence of overt hypothyroidism for participants with TSH above 6.9 mIU/L was 36.7%, with incidence of 42.3% for females. Anti-thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPO) positivity is an important predictor of development of hypothyroidism; however, it could be also positive due to transient thyroiditis.

Conclusions. It can be concluded that females with TSH above 6.9 mIU/L, particularly those with free triiodothyronine (FT3) and FT4 in the lower half of the reference range, are more likely to develop biochemical hypothyroidism. Therefore, it is recommended to give them a trial of levothyroxine replacement. It is also recommended to repeat TSH after six months for male subjects and participants with baseline TSH equal or less than 6.9 mIU/L.