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Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 1997 Mar;46(3):301-7.

Longitudinal changes of bone mineral density and bone turnover in postmenopausal women on thyroxine.

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Department of Human Metabolism and Clinical Biochemistry, University of Sheffield, Northern General Hospital, UK.



The skeletal risks of subclinical hyperthyroidism in postmenopausal women on replacement thyroxine remain controversial. The aims of this study were to determine (1) the relationship between bone turnover and TSH levels and (2) whether reduction of thyroxine (T4) dose in postmenopausal women who have suppressed TSH levels is beneficial to bone mineral density (BMD) and bone turnover.


A prospective study over 2 years of post-menopausal women treated with T4 with an age- and sex-matched healthy control group.


Sixty-four post-menopausal women, ages 47 to 74 (61 +/- 9, mean +/- SD), on T4 for between 2 and 14 years. Patients were divided into three groups: group 1 (n = 23) with normal serum TSH levels, group 2 (n = 18) with suppressed serum TSH levels and group 3 (n = 23) with a history of thyroidectomy and suppressed TSH levels (patients with thyroid cancer). Thirty-six age-matched healthy postmenopausal women were recruited as a control group. Bone mineral density (BMD), measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry and bone turnover, were evaluated at baseline and over 2 years in the four groups. Serum TSH levels were measured every 6 to 12 months. In group 2, the dose of T4 was reduced after the baseline measurement and serum TSH levels were remeasured 1 to 4 months later. Serum TSH levels returned to the reference range after the reduction of T4 dose in group 2.


The serum TSH level, after log transformation, was negatively correlated with serum levels of osteocalcin (BGP), bone alkaline phosphatase (BAP) and urinary cross-linked N-telopeptides pyridinoline of type I collagen (NTx) (linear correlation, r = -0.41 P < 0.001, r = -0.29 P = 0.01 and r = -0.26 P = 0.033), respectively. There was no significant difference in BMD and bone turnover between the four groups at either baseline or follow-up (ANOVA, P > 0.05). The levels of serum BGP, BAP and urinary NTx decreased whereas lumbar spine and femoral neck BMD increased significantly in group 2 over 2 years (one sample t-test, P = 0.0021, 0.034, 0.0017, 0.011 and < 0.001, respectively). In group 2, the rates of change of lumbar spine and femoral BMD were increased significantly and the rates of change of serum BGP and urinary NTx were decreased significantly compared with other groups (Scheffe test, P < 0.05).


In postmenopausal women on T4, bone turnover is related to the serum TSH level and a reduction of T4 dose in those with suppressed serum TSH levels can result in a decrease in bone turnover and an increase in bone mineral density.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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