Thyrotropin/Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) Measurement

In This Article

Clinical Use of Serum TSH Measurements

Most professional societies recommend that TSH be used for case finding or screening for thyroid dysfunction in ambulatory patients, provided that the TSH assay used has a functional sensitivity at or below 0.02 mIU/L.[4,10,210] The TSH assay sensitivity stipulation is critical for the reliable detection of subnormal values, since less sensitive TSH assays are prone to produce false negative (normal range) results on specimens with subnormal TSH concentrations.[202] The log/linear relationship between TSH and FT4 dictates that serum TSH is the preferred test, since only TSH can detect mild (subclinical) degrees of thyroid hormone excess or deficiency (Figure 1) [Section-2 A1]. Mild (subclinical) thyroid dysfunction, characterized by an abnormal TSH associated with a normal range FT4 have reported prevalences in population surveys of ~10% and 2%, for subclinical hypo-and hyperthyroidism, respectively.[10,18,25,211] Despite the clinical sensitivity of TSH, a TSH-centered strategy has inherently two primary limitations. First, it assumes that hypothalamic-pituitary function is intact and normal. Second, it assumes that the patient's thyroid status is stable, i.e. the patient has had no recent therapy for hypo-or hyperthyroidism [Section-2 A1 and Figure 2].[19] If either of these criteria is not met, serum TSH results can be diagnostically misleading ( Table 1 ).

The relationship between serum TSH and FT4 concentrations in individuals with stable thyroid status and normal hypothalamic-pituitary function. Adapted from reference (20).

The lag in pituitary TSH reset during transition periods of unstable thyroid status following treatment for hyper- or hypothyroidism.

When investigating the cause of an abnormal serum TSH in the presence of normal FT4 and FT3, it is important to recognize that TSH is a labile hormone and subject to nonthyroidal pituitary influences (glucocorticoids, somatostatin, dopamine etc) that can disrupt the TSH/FT4 relationship.[69,70,71,212] It is important to confirm any TSH abnormality in a fresh specimen drawn after ~3 weeks before assigning a diagnosis of mild (subclinical) thyroid dysfunction as the cause of an isolated TSH abnormality. After confirming a high TSH abnormality, a TPOAb measurement is a useful test for establishing the presence of thyroid autoimmunity as the cause of mild (subclinical) hypothyroidism. The higher the TPOAb concentration, the more rapid the development of thyroid failure. After confirming a low TSH abnormality it can be difficult to unequivocally establish a diagnosis of mild (subclinical) hyperthyroidism, especially if the patient is elderly and not receiving L-T4 therapy.[34] If a multinodular goiter is present, thyroid autonomy is the likely cause of mild (subclinical) hyperthyroidism.[213]

There is no consensus regarding the optimal age to begin the screening process. The American Thyroid Association guidelines recommend screening at age 35 and every 5 years thereafter.[10] Decision analysis appears to support the cost-effectiveness of this strategy, especially for women.[215] The strategy for using TSH to screen for mild (subclinical) hypo-and hyperthyroidism will remain in dispute until there is more agreement on the clinical consequences and outcome of having a chronically abnormal TSH. Also there needs to be agreement as to the level of the TSH abnormality that should indicate the need for treatment.[216,217]

There is mounting evidence to suggest that patients with a persistent TSH abnormality may be exposed to greater risk if left untreated. Specifically, a recent study reported a higher cardiovascular mortality rate when patients had a chronically low serum TSH.[37] Further, there are an increasing number of reports that indicate that mild hypothyroidism in early pregnancy increases fetal wastage and impairs the IQ of the offspring.[63,64,65] Such studies support the efficacy of early thyroid function screening, especially in women during their childbearing years.

Most studies support screening for thyroid dysfunction in the elderly.[10,35,214] The prevalence of both a low and high TSH (associated with normal FT4) is increased in the elderly compared with younger patients. Hashimotos' thyroiditis, associated with a high TSH and detectable TPOAb, is encountered with increasing prevalence as we get older.[35] The incidence of a low TSH is also increased in the elderly.[35] A low TSH may be transient but is a persistent finding in approximately 2 % of elderly individuals, with no other apparent evidence of thyroid dysfunction.[36,214] This could be due to a change in the FT4 set-point, a change in TSH bioactivity or mild thyroid hormone excess.[218] A recent study by Parle et al showed a higher cardiovascular mortality rate in such patients.[37] This suggests that the cause of a persistently low TSH level should be actively investigated.[37] Multinodular goiter should be ruled out as the cause especially in areas of iodide deficiency.[213] Medication history should be thoroughly reviewed (including over-the-counter preparations, some of which contain T3). If a goiter is absent and the medication history negative, a serum TSH should be rechecked together with TPOAb measurements after 4 to 6 weeks. If the TSH is still low and TPOAb is positive, the possibility of autoimmune thyroid dysfunction should be considered. Treatment of low TSH should be made on a case-by-case basis.

It is now well documented that hypothyroid patients have serum FT4 values in the upper third of the reference interval when the L-T4 replacement dose is titered to bring the serum TSH into the therapeutic target range (0.5-2.0 mIU/L).[219,220]

Levothyroxine (L-T4) and not dessiccated thyroid, is the preferred long-term replacement medication for hypothyroidism.

A euthyroid state is usually achieved in adults with a L-T4 dose averaging 1.6 µg/kg body weight/day. Children require higher doses (up to 4.0µg/kg bw/day) and older individuals require lower doses (1.0 µg/kg bw/day).[221,222] The initial dose and the optimal time needed to establish the full replacement dose should be individualized relative to age, weight and cardiac status. The L-T4 dose requirement during pregnancy [Section-2 A3] and in post-menopausal women just starting hormone replacement therapy[223] may be increased.

A serum TSH result between 0.5 and 2.0 mIU/L is generally considered the therapeutic target for a standard LT4 replacement dose for primary hypothyroidism.

A serum FT4 concentration in the upper third of the reference interval is the therapeutic target for L-T4 replacement therapy when patients have central hypothyroidism due to pituitary and/or hypothalamic dysfunction.

A typical schedule for gradually titrating to a full replacement dose involves giving L-T4 in 25 µg increments each 6 -8 weeks until the full replacement dose is achieved (serum TSH 0.5-2.0 mIU/L). As shown in figure 2, TSH is slow to re-equilibrate to a new thyroxine level. Patients with chronic, severe hypothyroidism may develop pituitary thyrotroph hyperplasia which can mimic a pituitary adenoma, but which resolves after several months of L-T4 replacement therapy.[224] Patients taking Rifampin and anticonvulsants that influence the metabolism of L-T4 may also need an increase in their dose of L-T4 to maintain the TSH within the therapeutic target range.

Both free T4 and TSH should be used for monitoring hypothyroid patients suspected of intermittent or noncompliance with their L-T4 therapy. The paradoxical association of a high FT4 + high TSH is often an indication that compliance may be an issue. Specifically, acute ingestion of missed L-T4 doses before a clinic visit will raise the FT4 but fail to normalize the serum TSH because of the "lag effect" (Figure 2). In essence, the serum TSH is analogous to the hemoglobin A1c as a long-term free T4 sensor! At least 6 weeks is needed before retesting TSH following a change in the dose of L-T4 or brand of thyroid medication. Annual TSH testing of patients receiving a stable dose of L-T4 is recommended. The optimal time for TSH testing is not influenced by the time of day the L-T4 dose is ingested.[133] However, the daily dose should be withheld when FT4 is used as the therapeutic endpoint, since serum FT4 is significantly increased (~13%) above baseline for 9 hours after ingesting the last dose.[225]

Ideally L-T4 should be taken before eating; at the same time of day and at least 4 hours apart from any other medications or vitamins. Many medications can influence T4 absorption/metabolism (especially Cholestyramine, Ferrous Sulfate, Soy Protein, Sucralfate, antacids containing Aluminum Hydroxide, anticonvulsants or Rifampin).[4,226]

L-T4 administration designed to suppress serum TSH levels to subnormal values is typically reserved for patients with well-differentiated thyroid carcinoma for which thyrotropin is considered a trophic factor.[227] The efficacy of L-T4 suppression therapy has been determined from uncontrolled retrospective studies that have yielded conflicting results.[228,229]

It is important to individualize the degree of TSH suppression by weighing patient factors such as age, clinical status including cardiac factors and DTC recurrence risk against the potentially deleterious effects of iatrogenic mild (subclinical) hyperthyroidism on the heart and bone.[36] Many physicians use a serum TSH target of 0.05-0.1 mIU/L for low-risk patients and a TSH of <0.01 mIU/L for high-risk patients. Some physicians reduce the L-T4 dose to give low-normal TSH values when patients have undetectable serum thyroglobulin (Tg) levels and no recurrences 5-10 years after thyroidectomy. Suppression therapy for non-endemic goiters is generally considered ineffective.[230] Furthermore, patients with nodular goiters often already have suppressed TSH concentrations as a result of thyroid gland autonomy.[213]

Guideline 23. Levothyroxine (L-T4) Replacement Therapy for Primary Hypothyroidism

  • L-T4, not desiccated thyroid, is the preferred medication for long-term replacement therapy for hypothyroidism.

  • A euthyroid state is usually achieved with an average L-T4 dose of 1.6 µg/kg body weight/day. The initial dose and time to achieve full replacement should be individualized relative to age, weight and cardiac status. An initial L-T4 dose is normally 50-100 µg daily. Serum TSH measurement after six weeks will indicate the need for dose adjustment by 25-50 µg increments.

  • Children require higher doses of L-T4, up to 4.0µg/kg bw/day, due to rapid metabolism. Serum TSH and FT4 values should be assessed using age-specific and method-specific reference ranges (Table 3).

  • A serum TSH level between 0.5 and 2.0 mIU/L is generally considered the optimal therapeutic target for the L-T4 replacement dose for primary hypothyroidism.

  • TSH is slow to re-equilibrate to a new thyroxine status (Guideline 2). Six to 8 weeks is needed before retesting TSH after changing the L-T4 dose or brand of thyroid medication.

  • Intermittent or non-compliance with levothyroxine (L-T4) replacement therapy will result in discordant serum TSH and FT4 values (high TSH/high FT4) because of a persistently unstable thyroid state (Guideline 2). Both TSH and FT4 should be used for monitoring such patients.

  • Thyroxine requirements decline with age. Older individuals may require less than 1.0 µg/kg bw/day and may need to be titrated slowly. Some physicians prefer to gradually titrate such patients. An initial dose of 25 µg is recommended for patients with evidence of ischemic heart disease followed by dose increments of 25 µg every 3-4 weeks until the full replacement dose is achieved. Some believe that a higher target TSH (0.5-3.0 mIU/L) value may be appropriate for the elderly patient.

  • In severe hypothyroidism an initial L-T4 loading dose is the most rapid means for restoring a therapeutic FT4 level because the excess of unoccupied binding sites may blunt the FT4 response to treatment.

  • Thyroxine requirements increase during pregnancy. Thyroid status should be checked with TSH + FT4 during each trimester of pregnancy. The L-T4 dose should be increased (usually by 50 µg/day) to maintain a serum TSH between 0.5 and 2.0 mIU/L and a serum FT4 in the upper third of the normal reference interval.

  • Post-menopausal women starting hormone replacement therapy may need an increase in their L-T4 dose to keep the serum TSH within the therapeutic target.

  • TSH testing of patients receiving a stable L-T4 dose is recommended on an annual basis. The ideal time for TSH testing is not influenced by the time of day the L-T4 dose is ingested.

  • Ideally L-T4 should be taken before eating, at the same time of day, and at least 4 hours apart from any other medications or vitamins. Bedtime dosing should be 2 hours after the last meal.

  • Patients beginning chronic therapy with cholestyramine, ferrous sulfate, calcium carbonate, soy protein, sucralfate and antacids containing aluminum hydroxide that influence L-T4 absorption may require a larger L-T4 dose to maintain TSH within the therapeutic target range.

  • Patients taking Rifampin and anticonvulsants that influence the metabolism of L-T4 may also need an increased L-T4 dose to maintain the TSH within the therapeutic target range.

Guideline 24. Levothyroxine (L-T4) Suppression Therapy

  • Serum TSH is considered a growth factor for differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC). The typical L-T4 dose used to suppress serum TSH in DTC patients is 2.1µg/kg body weight/day.

  • The target serum TSH level for L-T4 suppression therapy for DTC should be individualized relative to the patient's age and clinical status including cardiac factors and DTC recurrence risk.

  • Many physicians use a serum TSH target value of 0.05-0.1 mIU/L for low-risk patients and a TSH of <0.01 mIU/L for high-risk patients.

  • Some physicians use a low-normal range therapeutic target for TSH when patients have undetectable serum Tg levels and have had no recurrence 5-10 years after thyroidectomy.

  • If iodide intake is sufficient, L-T4 suppression therapy is rarely an effective treatment strategy for reducing the size of goiters.

  • Over time, multi-nodular goiters typically develop autonomy that is characterized by a subnormal serum

Although most hospitalized patients with NTI have normal serum TSH concentrations, transient TSH abnormalities in the 0.02 - 20 mIU/L range are commonly encountered in the absence of thyroid dysfunction.[20,87,92,93] It has been suggested that the use of a wider reference range (0.02 -10 mIU/L) would improve the positive predictive value of TSH measurements for evaluating the sick hospitalized patient.[20,92,93,231] TSH should be used in conjunction with a FT4 estimate (or TT4) test for evaluating hospitalized patients with clinical symptoms or patients with a history of thyroid dysfunction (Guidelines 6 and 25).

Sometimes the cause of the TSH abnormality in a hospitalized patient is obvious, such as in the case of dopamine or glucocorticoid-therapy.[87,92] In other cases the TSH abnormality is transient and appears to be caused by NTI per se, and resolves with recovery from the illness. It is common to see a transient minor suppression of TSH into the 0.02-0.2 mIU/L range during the acute phase of an illness, followed by a rebound to mildly elevated values during recovery.[103] It is important to use a TSH assay with a functional sensitivity ≤0.02 mIU/L in the hospital setting in order to be able to reliably determine the degree of TSH suppression. Specifically, the extent of TSH suppression can be used to discriminate sick hyperthyroid patients with profoundly low serum TSH values (< 0.02 mIU/L) from patients with a mild transient suppression of NTI.[20]

Guideline 25. TSH Measurement in Hospitalized Patients

  • TSH + T4 (FT4 or TT4) is the most useful test combination to detect thyroid dysfunction in a sick hospitalized patient.

  • It is more appropriate to use a widened TSH reference interval (0.05 to 10.0 mIU/L) in the hospitalized setting. Serum TSH levels may become subnormal transiently in the acute phase and become elevated in the recovery phase of an illness.

  • A serum TSH value between 0.05 and 10.0 mIU/L is usually consistent with a euthyroid state, or only a minor thyroid abnormality that can be evaluated by retesting after the illness subsides. (This only applies to patients not receiving medications such as dopamine that directly inhibit pituitary TSH secretion.)

  • A low-normal TSH level in the presence of a low TT4 and low TT3 may reflect central hypothyroidism as a result of a prolonged illness; whether or not this condition requires immediate treatment remains uncertain and is currently controversial.

  • When thyroid dysfunction is suspected, a thyroid peroxidase antibody (TPOAb) test may be useful to differentiate autoimmune thyroid disease from NTI.

Diagnosing hyperthyroidism in NTI patients can be a challenge because current FT4 methods can give both inappropriately low and high values in euthyroid NTI patients.[101,232] Serum TT4 and TT3 measurements may be useful for confirming a diagnosis of hyperthyroidism if assessed relative to the severity of the illness (Guideline 6). A suppressed serum TSH below 0.02mIU/L is less specific for hyperthyroidism in hospitalized individuals, compared with ambulatory patients. One study found that 14% of hospitalized patients with TSH <0.01 mIU/L were euthyroid. However, such patients had a detectable TRH-stimulated TSH response whereas patients who were truly hyperthyroid with NTI did not.[20]

Mild (subclinical) hypothyroidism cannot be easily diagnosed during a hospitalization, because of the frequency of high TSH abnormalities associated with NTI. Provided that the thyroid hormone (FT4 or TT4) concentration is within normal limits, any minor abnormality in serum TSH (0.02-20.0 mIU/L) arising from a mild (subclinical) thyroid condition is unlikely to affect the outcome of the hospitalization, and can be deferred for evaluation 2-3 months after discharge. In contrast, sick hypothyroid patients typically exhibit the combination of low FT4 and elevated TSH (>20 mIU/L).[92]

The log/linear relationship between TSH and FT4 dictates that patients with primary hypothyroidism and a subnormal FT4 should have a serum TSH value > 10mIU/L (Figure 1) [Section-2 A1]. When the degree of TSH elevation associated with a low thyroid hormone level appears inappropriately low, pituitary insufficiency should be excluded. A diagnosis of central hypothyroidism will usually be missed using a "TSH first" strategy.[19]

Guideline 26. Levothyroxine (L-T4) Replacement Therapy for Central Hypothyroidism

  • A serum FT4 level in the upper third of the reference interval is the therapeutic target for the L-T4 replacement dose used to treat central hypothyroidism due to pituitary or hypothalamic dysfunction.

  • When using FT4 as the therapeutic endpoint for central hypothyroidism, the daily dose of L-T4 should be withheld on the day of the FT4 measurement. (Serum FT4 is increased (~13 %) above baseline for 9 hours after ingesting L-T4).

Central hypothyroid conditions are characterized by paradoxically normal or slightly elevated serum TSH in the majority of cases.[29] In one study of central hypothyroid patients, 35% had subnormal TSH values but 41% and 25% had inappropriately normal and elevated TSH values, respectively.[233] It is now well documented that the paradoxically elevated serum TSH levels seen in central hypothyroid conditions is caused by the measurement of biologically inert TSH isoforms that are secreted when the pituitary is damaged or when hypothalamic TRH stimulation is deficient.[197] The inappropriate TSH values arise because the monoclonal antibodies used in current TSH assays cannot distinguish between TSH isoforms of different biological activity, since TSH biological activity is determined not by the protein backbone but by the degree of glycosylation, specifically the sialylation of the TSH molecule. It appears that a normal TRH secretion is essential for producing normal TSH sialylation and associate the TSH subunits to form mature, biologically active TSH molecules.[29,197,234] The biological activity of TSH in central hypothyroid conditions appears to be inversely related to the degree of TSH sialylation as well as the FT4 level in the circulation.[29] TRH-stimulation testing may be useful for specifically diagnosing central hypothyroidism.[235] Typical TSH-responses in such conditions are blunted (<2-fold rise/ ≤4.0 mIU/L increment) and may be delayed.[197,204,235,236] In addition, the T3-responses to TRH-stimulated TSH are blunted and correlate with TSH biological activity.[197,237,238]

Guideline 27. Clinical Utility of TSH Assays (Functional Sensitivity < 0.02 mIU/L)

  • Serum TSH measurement is the most diagnostically sensitive test for detecting mild (subclinical), as well as overt, primary hypo-or hyperthyroidism in ambulatory patients.

  • The majority (>95%) of healthy euthyroid subjects have a serum TSH concentration below 2.5 mIU/L. Ambulatory patients with a serum TSH above 2.5 mIU/L when confirmed by a repeat TSH measurement made after 3-4 weeks, may be in the early stages of thyroid failure, especially if TPOAb is detected.

  • A serum TSH measurement is the therapeutic endpoint for titrating the L-T4 replacement dose for primary hypothyroidism (see Guideline 23) and for monitoring L-T4 suppression therapy for differentiated thyroid carcinoma (see Guideline 24).

  • Serum TSH measurements are more reliable than FT4 in hospitalized patients with non-thyroidal illness not receiving dopamine. Serum TSH should be used in conjunction with T4 (TT4 or FT4) testing for hospitalized patients (Guidelines 6 and 26).

  • TSH cannot be used to diagnose central hypothyroidism because current TSH assays measure biologically inactive TSH isoforms.

  • Central hypothyroidism is characterized by an inappropriately normal or slightly elevated serum TSH level and a blunted (<2-fold rise/ ≤4.0 mIU/L increment) TRH response.

  • When the serum FT4 is low and yet the serum TSH is only minimally elevated (<10 mIU/L), a diagnosis of central hypothyroidism should be considered.

  • Serum TSH measurements are an important pre-natal and first trimester screening test to detect mild (subclinical) hypothyroidism in the mother (see Guideline 4).

  • A low TSH in the setting of a multinodular goiter suggests the presence of mild (subclinical) hyperthyroidism due to thyroid autonomy.

  • A serum TSH measurement is required for confirming that an elevated thyroid hormone level is due to hyperthyroidism and not a thyroid hormone binding protein abnormality (such as FDH).

  • A serum TSH measurement is the primary test for detecting amiodarone - induced thyroid dysfunction (see Guideline 5).

As shown in Table 1 , binding protein abnormalities or assay technical problems are the most common causes for a discordant FT4/TSH relationship. The apparent paradoxical dissociation between high levels of thyroid hormone and a non-suppressed serum TSH has led to the widespread use of the term "inappropriate TSH secretion syndromes" to describe these conditions. Specimens that display a discordant TSH/FT4 relationship are increasingly being identified now that sensitive TSH assays that can reliably detect subnormal TSH concentrations are available and in widespread use [Section-3 C2]. As shown in Table 1 , it is critical to first exclude likely causes of a discordant TSH/FT4 ratio, i.e technical interference and/or binding protein abnormality. This confirmatory testing should be performed on a fresh specimen by measuring TSH together with free and total thyroid hormone with a different manufacturer's method. Only after the more common causes of discordance have been eliminated should rare conditions such as a TSH-secreting pituitary tumor or thyroid hormone resistance be considered.

When the abnormal biochemical profile has been confirmed, the possibility that a TSH-secreting pituitary tumor is the cause of the paradoxical TSH should first be eliminated before assigning the diagnosis of thyroid hormone resistance (THR). It should be noted that both conditions can coexist.[247] TSH-secreting pituitary tumors have similar biochemical profiles to THR but can be distinguished from THR by TSH-alpha subunit testing and radiographic imaging. Additionally, TRH-stimulation testing may occasionally be useful in developing the differential diagnosis. Specifically, a blunted TRH-stimulation test and T3-suppression test is characteristic of most TSH-secreting pituitary tumors whereas a normal response is seen in most cases of THR.[245]

TSH-Secreting Pituitary Tumors. Pituitary tumors that hypersecrete TSH are rare, representing <1% of cases of inappropriate TSH secretion.[27,28] These tumors often present as a macroadenoma with symptoms of hyperthyroidism associated with a nonsuppressed serum TSH and MRI evidence of a pituitary mass.[28]

After excluding a technical reason for the paradoxically elevated TSH level (i.e. HAMA), the diagnosis of TSH-secreting pituitary tumor is usually made on the basis of:

  • A lack of TSH response to TRH stimulation

  • An elevated serum TSH alpha subunit

  • A high alpha subunit/TSH ratio

  • The demonstration of a pituitary mass on MRI

Guideline 28. For Manufacturers of TSH Tests

  • Manufacturers that market TSH tests with differing sensitivities are urged to discontinue marketing the less sensitive product.

  • There is no justification for the pricing of TSH assays to be based on sensitivity!

  • There is no scientific justification for reflexing from a less sensitive to a more sensitive TSH test.

  • Manufacturers should help laboratories independently establish functional sensitivity by providing appropriately low TSH human serum pools when requested.

  • Manufacturers should indicate the use of calibration factors, especially if calibration factors are country-dependent.

  • Manufacturers should quote the recovery of the TSH Reference Preparation at the claimed functional sensitivity.

  • Kit Package Inserts should:

    • Document the realistic functional sensitivity of the method using the Guideline 20 protocol

    • Cite the functional sensitivity that can be achieved across a range of clinical laboratories

    • Display the typical between-run precision profile expected for a clinical laboratory

    • Recommend the use of functional sensitivity not analytical sensitivity to determine the lowest reporting limit. (Analytical sensitivity prompts laboratories to adopt an unrealistic detection limit.)

Thyroid Hormone Resistance. Thyroid hormone resistance (THR) is usually caused by a mutation of the thyroid hormone (TR), TR-beta receptor gene that occurs in 1: 50,000 live births.[239,240,241,242] Although the clinical presentation can be variable, patients have a similar biochemical profile. Specifically, serum FT4 and FT3 are typically elevated (from a minimal degree to a 2-3-fold elevation above the upper normal limit) and associated with a normal or slightly elevated serum TSH that responds to TRH stimulation.[242,243] However, it should be recognized that TSH secretion is not inappropriate given the fact that the tissue response to thyroid hormone is reduced, requiring higher thyroid hormone levels to maintain a normal metabolic state. THR patients typically have a goiter as a result of chronic hypersecretion of a hybrid TSH isoform that has increased increased biologic potency.[199,244] The clinical manifestation of thyroid hormone excess covers a wide spectrum. Some patients appear to have a normal metabolism with a near-normal serum TSH and whose receptor defect appears to be compensated for by high levels of thyroid hormone (Generalized THR). Other patients appear to be hypermetabolic and to have a defect that selectively affects the pituitary (Pituitary THR).

The distinctive features of THR are the presence of a non-suppressed TSH, together with an appropriate response to TRH despite elevated thyroid hormone levels.[242,245] Although rare, it is important to consider the diagnosis of THR when encountering a patient with elevated thyroid hormone levels associated with a paradoxically normal or elevated TSH.[242,246] Such patients have often been misdiagnosed as having hyperthyroidism and have been subjected to inappropriate thyroid surgery or radioiodide gland ablation.[242]