The controversy of the treatment of critically ill patients with thyroid hormone.

Best practice & research. Clinical endocrinology & metabolism

PubMedID: 11800518

Stathatos N, Levetan C, Burman KD, Wartofsky L. The controversy of the treatment of critically ill patients with thyroid hormone. Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2001;15(4):465-78.
There is currently a vast literature available on the changes in thyroid function tests that occur during non-thyroidal illness. The aetiology of these changes is, however, controversial, especially with respect to whether they play an adaptive role for the organism in order to cope with stress or whether they represent primary pathology of the pituitary-thyroid axis. This is particularly true for critically ill patients, in whom the most significant changes in thyroid function are observed. The changes include low levels of thyroxine and very low levels of tri-iodothyronine, which would, on the surface, appear to indicate hypothyroidism. Therapy with thyroid hormone, as either L-T4 or L-T3, has therefore been suggested because of these low values for thyroid hormones in the blood. It is, however, unclear whether treating these patients with thyroid hormone is beneficial or harmful. Multiple studies have addressed this issue with patients with cardiac disease, sepsis, pulmonary disease (e.g. acute respiratory distress syndrome) or severe infection, or with burn and trauma patients. In spite of a very large number of published studies, it is very difficult to form clear recommendations for treatment with thyroid hormone in the intensive care unit. Instead, we find the evidence far from compelling, and would advise withholding thyroid hormone therapy in the critical care setting in the absence of clear clinical or laboratory evidence for hypothyroidism.