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Mortality rate of chronically ill geriatric patients with subnormal serum thyrotropin concentration: a 2-yr follow-up study.

Author(s): Radacsi A, Kovacs G, Bernard W, Feldkamp J, Horster FA, Szabolcs I

Affiliation(s): Division of Endocrinology, Department of Internal Medicine and Geriatrics, National Medical Center Budapest, Hungary.

Publication date & source: 2003-07, Endocrine., 21(2):133-6.

Publication type: Clinical Trial; Randomized Controlled Trial

We investigated the natural course of subclinical thyroid dysfunctions in geriatric patients, especially regarding their association with mortality rate. Ninety-three randomly selected chronically ill geriatric patients 64- 87 (median: 77) yr of age participated in the screening study with a 2-yr follow-up. Serum thyrotropin (thyroid- stimulating hormone [TSH]), free thyroxine, triiodothyronine, and antibodies against thyroid peroxidase were measured. During the follow-up, patients with suppressed TSH levels who were otherwise euthyroid (untreated) had a higher mortality rate than patients with normal TSH (5/8 vs 18/64; p < 0.05). The initial clinical state of these two subgroups did not differ significantly. Two-thirds of patients with treated hyperthyroidism died. The mortality rate of patients with initially subnormal but not suppressed TSH level was average and did not differ statistically from either the euthyroid or the hyperthyroid groups. Only 1 of 13 euthyroid patients with positive thyroid antibody titers developed a subsequent subclinical hypothyroidism. Subclinical hyperthyroidism was found to be associated with a higher mortality rate in chronically ill geriatric patients, which justifies screening for thyroid dysfunction and treatment of subclinical hyperthyroidism. In addition, a subnormal but measurable TSH was not indicative regarding the future development of hyperthyroidism. Finally, during the 2-yr follow-up, antibody positivity in the euthyroid cases did not prove to be predictive for the subsequent development of hypothyroidism.

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