Challenges in Thyroid Function Testing: Interferences and Clinical Implications

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Gisah Amaral de Carvalho Beatriz Drobrzenski


In recent decades, significant advancements have been made in the methodologies used for evaluating thyroid dysfunctions. These advancements include the development of radioimmunoassays, immunometric assays, and liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry.

The main thyroid function tests include thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and the measurement of triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), including their total and free fractions.

Over time, different generations of TSH tests have been developed, starting from radioimmunoassays to immunometric assays, and more recently, tests utilizing fluorophores and chemiluminescent molecules. The third-generation tests are currently the most widely used due to their high sensitivity and specificity. Thyroid-stimulating hormone is preferred as the initial test for evaluating thyroid function since it has a log-linear relationship with free T4 levels, enabling the identification of subclinical hypothyroidism and subclinical hyperthyroidism.

The reference range for normal TSH levels is typically between 0.45 and 4.5 mIU/L. However, there can be variations in TSH levels based on factors such as sex, age, and ethnicity. Specific reference values may be required for certain populations, such as the elderly, pregnancy, and neonates. In the elderly, an increase in TSH levels is expected. In the neonatal period, TSH levels are high after birth and take a few weeks to normalize. During pregnancy, various physiological changes occur, leading to alterations in thyroid hormones to meet fetal demands.

Laboratory interferences in thyroid hormone assays must be considered to ensure accurate results. Biotin interference can lead to falsely low TSH and falsely high free T3 and T4 levels. Macro-thyrotropin can cause elevated TSH levels with normal thyroid hormone levels. Heterophilic antibodies can also cause false results. Additionally, the evaluation of autoantibodies and markers used in thyroid cancer follow-up needs special attention.

Patients experiencing conditions like trauma, particularly in severe cases, may undergo changes in thyroid hormone levels, even without having a specific thyroid disease, which is called low triiodothyronine syndrome.

In conclusion, it is essential to be aware of potential laboratory interferences and consider individual variations to ensure accurate interpretation and appropriate management of patients.


Keywords: thyroid function tests, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, thyroid-stimulating hormone

Article Details

How to Cite
DE CARVALHO, Gisah Amaral; DROBRZENSKI, Beatriz. Challenges in Thyroid Function Testing: Interferences and Clinical Implications. Medical Research Archives, [S.l.], v. 11, n. 8, aug. 2023. ISSN 2375-1924. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 02 oct. 2023. doi:
Research Articles


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