Changes in Thyroid Function Across Adolescence: A Longitudinal Study

Purdey J. Campbell, Suzanne J. Brown, Phillip Kendrew, Michelle Lewer, Ee Mun Lim, John Joseph, Simone M. Cross, Margaret J. Wright, Nicholas G. Martin, Scott G. Wilson, John P. Walsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: There are no large, longitudinal studies of thyroid function across adolescence. The aims of this study were to examine longitudinal trends in thyrotropin (TSH), free triiodothyronine (fT3) and free thyroxine (fT4) and determine age-specific reference ranges. METHODS: Thyroid function was assessed in 3415 participants in the Brisbane Longitudinal Twin Study at ages 12, 14, and 16, using the Abbott ARCHITECT immunoassay. Longitudinal analyses were adjusted for body mass index and puberty. RESULTS: In girls, mean fT4 (± SE) increased between age 12 and 14 (by 0.30 ± 0.08 pmol/L; P < 0.001), while remaining unchanged in boys; from age 14 to 16, fT4 increased in both girls (by 0.42 ± 0.07 pmol/L; P < 0.001) and boys (0.64 ± 0.07 pmol/L, P < 0.001). There was a slight increase in fT3 from age 12 to 14 years in girls (by 0.07 ± 0.03 pmol/L; P = 0.042), with a more marked increase in boys (0.29 ± 0.03 pmol/L; P < 0.001), followed by a decrease from age 14 to 16 in both sexes (girls, by 0.53 ± 0.02 pmol/L; P < 0.001; boys, by 0.62 ± 0.03 pmol/L; P < 0.001). From age 12 to 14, TSH showed no significant change in girls or boys, then levels increased from age 14 to 16 in both sexes (in girls, by 4.9%, 95% CI: 2.4%-10.3%, P = 0.020; in boys, by 7.2%, 95% CI: 3.0%-11.6%, P = 0.001). Reference ranges differed substantially from adults, particularly for fT4 and fT3. CONCLUSIONS: Thyroid function tests in adolescents display complex, sexually dimorphic patterns. Implementation of adolescence-specific reference ranges may be appropriate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E1162-E1170
JournalThe Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020


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