Reverse triiodothyronine (rT3), triiodothyronine (T3), thyroxine (T4), thyroxine binding globulin (TBG), and thyrotrophin (TSH) were measured in sera from placental cord blood in an unselected series of 272 deliveries. In this series the concentrations of rT3 (mean 3.33 nmol/l, 95% confidence limits 1.6--7.0 nmol/l), were log normally distributed and did not overlap the adult normal range (0.11--0.44 nmol/l). There were no correlations between the cord blood concentrations of rT3, T3, T4, and TSH. The cord serum rT3 concentration was not influenced by maturity, birth-weight, or neonatal risk factors, whereas these factors did affect the concentrations of T3, T4, AND TBG. There is no arteriovenous rT3 concentration difference across the placenta, therefore the cord rT3 reflects the systemic rT3 concentration in the baby at birth. As rT3 in the neonate largely, if not entirely, derives from thyroxine from the fetal thyroid, measurement of the cord rT3 concentration may be a good immediate screening test for neonatal hypothyroidism.
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