Natural history of subclinical hypothyroidism with TSH ≤10 mIU/l: a prospective study

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Abstract

Objective

The risk of progression of subclinical hypothyroidism (SCH) to clinical dysfunction is one of the factors considered in the decision to treat this condition. This study evaluated the natural history of SCH in women with TSH ≤10 mIU/l.

Design

This is a prospective study.

Patients

Two hundred and fifty-two women with SCH and TSH levels ranging from 4·5 to 10 mIU/l were followed up for a period of 5 years.

Results

Among the 241 patients followed up until the completion of the study, 46 (19%) required levothyroxine (L-T4) therapy, 55 (22·8%) had spontaneous normalization of serum TSH, and 140 (58·1%) continued to meet the criteria for mild SCH. In multivariate analysis, only initial TSH >8 mIU/l was a predictor of the need for L-T4. In contrast, initial TSH ≤8 mIU/l and the absence of thyroiditis [negative antithyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPOAb) and ultrasonography (US)] were predictors of TSH normalization. Of note, the natural history was similar in TPOAb-positive patients and patients with negative TPOAb but with positive US.

Conclusions

Most women with mild elevation of serum TSH, ranging from 4·5 to 10 mIU/l, do not progress to overt hypothyroidism and even normalize their TSH. However, initial TSH seems to be a more important predictor of progression than the presence of antibodies or ultrasonographic appearance.

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