Indices of thyroid function were measured in 97 preterm infants at birth and at 5, 10, and 15 days of age. Triiodothyronine uptake, free thyroxine index, thyroxine, free thyroxine, triiodothyronine, reverse triiodothyronine, and thyroxine binding globulin values at birth correlated with gestational age, whereas thyroid stimulating hormone values did not. Treatment with steroids prenatally had no apparent effect on thyroid function at birth or postnatally. Infants developing respiratory distress syndrome had normal values for all indices at birth. These infants had significantly lower thyroxine, free thyroxine index, free thyroxine, and triiodothyronine values at 5 days of age, while thyroid stimulating hormone values remained normal. This alteration in thyroid function was interpreted as being secondary to respiratory distress syndrome. Gestational maturity and respiratory distress syndrome, if present, must be taken into account when evaluating thyroxine variables in preterm infants, whereas measurement of thyroid stimulating hormone as the screen for congenital hypothyroidism circumvents these considerations.
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