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      T 4 versus T 3 and T 4: Is It a Real Controversy?

      Hormone Research in Paediatrics

      S. Karger AG

      Tri-iodothyroxine, T4 , Thyroid hormone replacement

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          Abstract

          Background: Although thyroid hormone replacement therapy has been a mainstay of endocrinologic therapy, many patients feel unwell despite apparently optimal treatment. Methods and Results: Recently, attempts have been made to improve treatment by administering tri-iodothyroxine (T<sub>3</sub>) in addition to thyroxine. Initial results of a crossover study suggested that combination T<sub>3 </sub>and T<sub>4</sub> therapy was associated with improvements in several measures of quality of life and increased patient preference. Results of subsequent studies have not supported these initially promising findings. Conclusions: At present, combination treatment cannot be recommended. Further clinical studies that are adequately powered and comprised of homogenous patient populations are needed to determine whether any benefits are associated with sustained-release T<sub>3 </sub>preparations.

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          Most cited references 15

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          Hypothyroidism.

          Hypothyroidism is common, potentially serious, often clinically overlooked, readily diagnosed by laboratory testing, and eminently treatable. The condition is particularly prevalent in older women, in whom autoimmune thyroiditis is common. Other important causes include congenital thyroid disorders, previous thyroid surgery and irradiation, drugs such as lithium carbonate and amiodarone, and pituitary and hypothalamic disorders. Worldwide, dietary iodine deficiency remains an important cause. Hypothyroidism can present with nonspecific constitutional and neuropsychiatric complaints, or with hypercholesterolaemia, hyponatraemia, hyperprolactinaemia, or hyperhomocysteinaemia. Severe untreated hypothyroidism can lead to heart failure, psychosis, and coma. Although these manifestations are neither specific nor sensitive, the diagnosis is confirmed or excluded by measurements of serum thyrotropin and free thyroxine. Thyroxine replacement therapy is highly effective and safe, but suboptimal dosing is common in clinical practice. Patient noncompliance, drug interactions, and pregnancy can lead to inadequate treatment. Iatrogenic thyrotoxicosis can cause symptoms, and, even when mild, provoke atrial fibrillation and osteoporosis. We summarise present understanding of the history, epidemiology, pathophysiology, and clinical diagnosis and management of hypothyroidism.
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            Psychological well-being in patients on 'adequate' doses of l-thyroxine: results of a large, controlled community-based questionnaire study.

            Over 1% of the UK population is receiving thyroid hormone replacement with l-thyroxine (T4). However, many patients complain of persistent lethargy and related symptoms on T4 even with normal TSH levels. To date there has been no large study to determine whether this is related to thyroxine replacement or coincidental psychological morbidity. We have therefore attempted to address this issue using a large, community-based study. Computerized prescribing records of five general practices were used to identify 961 patients who had been on thyroxine for a minimum of 4 months from a population of 63 000 (1.5%), along with age- and sex-matched controls. All 1922 individuals were sent a two-page questionnaire, made up of the short form of the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12), designed to detect minor psychiatric disorders in the community, and a 12-question 'thyroid symptom questionnaire' (TSQ) in the same format. A covering letter explained that we were interested in 'how patients felt on medication' and made no direct reference to thyroxine. Scores from the GHQ and TSQ were marked for each individual using the GHQ and Likert scoring methods. Patients' latest TSH measurements were obtained from laboratory records. Comparisons were then made on scores for the total GHQ-12, TSQ and individual questions between patients (P) and control (C) groups. Separate analyses were made comparing the patients with a normal TSH (nP) and the control group. Five hundred and ninety-seven (62%) of the patients (P) and 551 (57%) of the controls (C) responded and fully completed at least one of the two questionnaire. Three hundred and ninety-seven responding patients (nP) had a TSH estimation performed in the previous 12 months with the last result being in the local laboratory normal range for TSH (0.1-5.5 or 0.2-6.0 mU/l, according to the assay method used). The responding P, nP and C populations were well matched for age (59.96, 59.73, 59.35 years) and sex (85%, 83%, 87% female). The number of individuals scoring 3 or more on the GHQ-12 (indicating 'caseness') was 21% higher in P than C [185/572 (32.3%) vs. 137/535 (25.6%), P = 0.014] and 26% higher in nP than C [131/381 (34.4%) vs. 137/535 (25.6%), P < 0.005]. Stronger differences were seen with the TSQ scores [C = 187/535 (35.0%), P = 273/583 (46.8%), P < 0.001, P vs. C; and nP = 189/381 (48.6%), P < 0.001, nP vs. C]. Differences existed in chronic drug use and chronic disease prevalence between the control and patient groups, but the differences in GHQ and TSQ scores between the groups remained significant even after correction for these factors as well as age and sex in multiple regression analysis. This community-based study is the first evidence to indicate that patients on thyroxine replacement even with a normal TSH display significant impairment in psychological well-being compared to controls of similar age and sex. In view of the large numbers of people on thyroxine replacement, we believe that these differences, although not large, could contribute to significant psychological morbidity in a substantial number of individuals.
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              Effects of thyroxine as compared with thyroxine plus triiodothyronine in patients with hypothyroidism.

              Patients with hypothyroidism are usually treated with thyroxine (levothyroxine) only, although both thyroxine and triiodothyronine are secreted by the normal thyroid gland. Whether thyroid secretion of triiodothyronine is physiologically important is unknown. We compared the effects of thyroxine alone with those of thyroxine plus triiodothyronine (liothyronine) in 33 patients with hypothyroidism. Each patient was studied for two five-week periods. During one period, the patient received his or her usual dose of thyroxine. During the other, the patient received a regimen in which 50 microg of the usual dose of thyroxine was replaced by 12.5 microg of triiodothyronine. The order in which each patient received the two treatments was randomized. Biochemical, physiologic, and psychological tests were performed at the end of each treatment period. The patients had lower serum free and total thyroxine concentrations and higher serum total triiodothyronine concentrations after treatment with thyroxine plus triiodothyronine than after thyroxine alone, whereas the serum thyrotropin concentrations were similar after both treatments. Among 17 scores on tests of cognitive performance and assessments of mood, 6 were better or closer to normal after treatment with thyroxine plus triiodothyronine. Similarly, among 15 visual-analogue scales used to indicate mood and physical status, the results for 10 were significantly better after treatment with thyroxine plus triiodothyronine. The pulse rate and serum sex hormone-binding globulin concentrations were slightly higher after treatment with thyroxine plus triiodothyronine, but blood pressure, serum lipid concentrations, and the results of neurophysiologic tests were similar after the two treatments. In patients with hypothyroidism, partial substitution of triiodothyronine for thyroxine may improve mood and neuropsychological function; this finding suggests a specific effect of the triiodothyronine normally secreted by the thyroid gland.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                HRE
                Horm Res Paediatr
                10.1159/issn.1663-2818
                Hormone Research in Paediatrics
                S. Karger AG
                978-3-8055-8255-1
                978-3-318-01446-4
                1663-2818
                1663-2826
                2007
                February 2007
                16 February 2007
                : 67
                : Suppl 1
                : 128-131
                Affiliations
                The School of Medicine, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
                Article
                97569 Horm Res 2007;67:128–131
                10.1159/000097569
                © 2007 S. Karger AG, Basel

                Copyright: All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be translated into other languages, reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, microcopying, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Drug Dosage: The authors and the publisher have exerted every effort to ensure that drug selection and dosage set forth in this text are in accord with current recommendations and practice at the time of publication. However, in view of ongoing research, changes in government regulations, and the constant flow of information relating to drug therapy and drug reactions, the reader is urged to check the package insert for each drug for any changes in indications and dosage and for added warnings and precautions. This is particularly important when the recommended agent is a new and/or infrequently employed drug. Disclaimer: The statements, opinions and data contained in this publication are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of the publishers and the editor(s). The appearance of advertisements or/and product references in the publication is not a warranty, endorsement, or approval of the products or services advertised or of their effectiveness, quality or safety. The publisher and the editor(s) disclaim responsibility for any injury to persons or property resulting from any ideas, methods, instructions or products referred to in the content or advertisements.

                Page count
                Tables: 2, References: 16, Pages: 4
                Categories
                Adult Workshop 1

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