J Appl Lab Med. 2023 Jul 20:jfad032. doi: 10.1093/jalm/jfad032. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Free triiodothyronine (fT3) testing is most useful when thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) is suppressed, and free thyroxine (fT4) is normal or decreased. These laboratory values in a symptomatic patient are referred to as T3 thyrotoxicosis. Standards for fT3 reflex testing have not been established. Herein, we examined the clinical utility of fT3 with the goal of identifying a TSH cutoff in the context of normal/decreased fT4 that maximizes the utility of measuring fT3.
METHODS: TSH, fT4, and fT3 results between January 2016 and October 2021 were extracted from the laboratory information system and grouped if resulted on the same day for the same patient. Frequency of biochemical T3 thyrotoxicosis was evaluated at different TSH cutoffs and in outpatient vs inpatient settings.
RESULTS: Of the 4366 TSH-fT4-fT3 results, 70 (1.6%) were consistent with biochemical T3 thyrotoxicosis. The common reasons were previously diagnosed hyperthyroidism on antithyroid medication (n = 28) or hypothyroidism on thyroid medication (n = 18) and newly diagnosed hyperthyroidism (n = 20, 0.5%). The likelihood of detecting T3 thyrotoxicosis increased with lower TSH cutoff (<0.3 μIU/mL, 10.3% vs <0.0 1μIU/mL, 27.6%). All patients with newly diagnosed hyperthyroidism had TSH <0.01 μIU/mL. Higher frequency of T3 thyrotoxicosis was observed in the outpatient setting (34%) relative to the inpatient setting (14%, P < 0.001) when TSH < 0.01 μIU/mL.
CONCLUSIONS: T3 thyrotoxicosis is a relatively rare diagnosis and fT3 measurement has limited utility in the vast majority of patients. A fT3 reflex for patients with TSH <0.01 μIU/mL and normal/low fT4 may improve clinical utility and reduce unnecessary testing, especially in the outpatient setting.