Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Difficulties in selecting an appropriate neonatal thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) screening threshold


Background The UK Newborn Screening Programme Centre recommends that a blood spot thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) cut-off of 10 mU/l is used to detect congenital hypothyroidism (CHT). As the value used varies from 5 to 10 mU/l, we examined the implications of altering this threshold.

Methods Our regional blood spot TSH cut-off is 6 mU/l. Positive or suspected cases were defined as a TSH >6 mU/l throughout the study period (1 April 2005 to 1 March 2007). All term infants (>35 weeks) whose first TSH was 6–20 mU/l had a second TSH measured. The biochemical details of infants with a TSH between 6.1 and 10.0 mU/l and then >6 mU/l on second sampling were sent to paediatric endocrinologists to determine approaches to management.

Results 148 of 65 446 infants (0.23%) had a first blood spot TSH >6.0 mU/l. 120 were term infants with 67 of these (0.1% of all infants tested) having a TSH between 6.1 and 10.0 mU/l and 53 a TSH >10.0 mU/l. Of the 67 term infants with a TSH between 6.1 and 10.0 mU/l on initial testing, four continued to have a TSH >6 mU/l. One with a TSH >10 mU/l and one infant with a TSH <10 mU/l on the second blood spot have been diagnosed with CHT. The survey of endocrinologists highlighted significant differences in practice.

Conclusions A reduced threshold of 6 mU/l will increase the number of false positive term infants by 126%, but abnormalities of thyroid function requiring treatment will be detected. We suspect that the additional expense involved in setting a lower threshold is justified.

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.