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Thyroid hormone concentrations can be disturbed during critical illness. Our aim was to determine changes in thyroid hormone concentrations during neonatal extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO).We included 21 ECMO-treated neonates. Age-specific s.d. scores (SDS) of free and total thyroxine (FT4; TT4), reverse and total triiodothyronine (rT3; TT3), thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and thyroxine-binding globulin (TBG) were determined at six fixed time-points. Data were analyzed using general linear models.At baseline, mean SDS FT4 (-0.78, 95% CI: -1.37 to -0.19), TT4 (-1.97, 95% CI: -2.76 to -1.18), TT3 (-0.88, 95% CI: -1.13 to -0.63), TSH (-2.14, 95% CI: -2.93 to -1.35) and TBG (-3.52, 95% CI: -4.55 to -2.50) were low with high mean SDS rT3 (0.53, 95% CI: 0.28 to 0.78). One hour after start ECMO, TT4, TSH and TBG had further declined; 12 h after start ECMO TT3 had declined (all P < 0.05). After this decline, mean SDS TSH increased to the baseline level 12 h after start ECMO (-2.50, 95% CI: -3.22 to -1.79), and was higher than baseline 48 h after start ECMO (-0.56, 95% CI: -1.29 to 0.17). This TSH increase was followed by increases in TT4 and TT3. FT4 remained constant within the normal range during ECMO.Thyroid hormone concentrations before ECMO were suggestive of non-thyroidal illness syndrome (NTIS). During ECMO, increases in TSH, TT4 and TT3 after an initial decline possibly reflect spontaneous restoration of the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis. FT4 remained constant within the normal range. This suggests that thyroxine therapy is not required during ECMO.