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Pediatr Res. 1997 Nov;42(5):604-9.

Thyroid function in very preterm infants: influences of gestational age and disease.

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Department of Neonatology, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Emma Children's Hospital AMC, The Netherlands.


It is not known how immaturity and disease influence postnatal thyroid function in infants <30 wk of gestational age. We performed serial measurements of plasma thyroxine (T4), free T4 (FT4), triiodothyronine (T3), reverse T3 (rT3), TSH, and T4-binding globulin (TBG) in 100 infants of <30 wk of gestation, during the first 8 postnatal weeks, to investigate the influences of disease and gestational age on the time course of thyroid hormones. One hundred infants were divided twice into two groups: 1) in a group of 25-28 and of 28-30 wk of gestation; and 2) in a sick and a healthy group, with similar gestational ages. The time course of T4, FT4, T3, TSH, and TBG, but not rT3 differed significantly (p < 0.005) between the gestational age groups. T4 and FT4 decreased to levels below the cord blood value with a deeper FT4 nadir on d 7 in the youngest group. Disease decreased T4, FT4, T3, TSH, and TBG concentrations especially during the 1st wk after birth (p < 0.005). However, the FT4 nadir on d 7 was similar in sick and healthy infants. After 3 wk, T4, FT4, T3, and TBG were higher in the sick group compared with the healthy group. rT3 levels were not increased in sick infants. We conclude that the extent of the FT4 decrease after birth in infants of <30 wk gestation is mainly influenced by gestational age and probably reflects a transient depletion of thyroidal hormone reserves. rT3 cannot be used as a marker of nonthyroidal illness in very preterm infants.

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