A randomized controlled trial of the effect of thyroxine replacement on cognitive function in community-living elderly subjects with subclinical hypothyroidism: the birmingham elderly thyroid study

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Context: Subclinical hypothyroidism (SCH) and cognitive dysfunction are both common in the elderly and have been linked. It is important to determine whether T(4) replacement therapy in SCH confers cognitive benefit. Objective: Our objective was to determine whether administration of T(4) replacement to achieve biochemical euthyroidism in subjects with SCH improves cognitive function. Design and Setting: We conducted a double-blind placebo-controlled randomized controlled trial in the context of United Kingdom primary care. Patients: Ninety-four subjects aged 65 yr and over (57 females, 37 males) with SCH were recruited from a population of 147 identified by screening. Intervention: T(4) or placebo was given at an initial dosage of one tablet of either placebo or 25 mug T(4) per day for 12 months. Thyroid function tests were performed at 8-weekly intervals with dosage adjusted in one-tablet increments to achieve TSH within the reference range for subjects in treatment arm. Fifty-two subjects received T(4) (31 females, 21 males; mean age 73.5 yr, range 65-94 yr); 42 subjects received placebo (26 females, 16 males; mean age 74.2 yr, 66-84 yr). Main Outcome Measures: Mini-Mental State Examination, Middlesex Elderly Assessment of Mental State (covering orientation, learning, memory, numeracy, perception, attention, and language skills), and Trail-Making A and B were administered. Results: Eighty-two percent and 84% in the T(4) group achieved euthyroidism at 6- and 12-month intervals, respectively. Cognitive function scores at baseline and 6 and 12 months were as follows: Mini-Mental State Examination T(4) group, 28.26, 28.9, and 28.28, and placebo group, 28.17, 27.82, and 28.25 [not significant (NS)]; Middlesex Elderly Assessment of Mental State T(4) group, 11.72, 11.67, and 11.78, and placebo group, 11.21, 11.47, and 11.44 (NS); Trail-Making A T(4) group, 45.72, 47.65, and 44.52, and placebo group, 50.29, 49.00, and 46.97 (NS); and Trail-Making B T(4) group, 110.57, 106.61, and 96.67, and placebo group, 131.46, 119.13, and 108.38 (NS). Linear mixed-model analysis demonstrated no significant changes in any of the measures of cognitive function over time and no between-group difference in cognitive scores at 6 and 12 months. Conclusions: This RCT provides no evidence for treating elderly subjects with SCH with T(4) replacement therapy to improve cognitive function.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3623-32
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2010