Scientific article

Thyroid Dysfunction and Anemia: A Prospective Cohort Study and a Systematic Review

Published inThyroid, vol. 28, no. 5, p. 575-582
Publication date2018-05

Background: Even though the association between thyroid dysfunction and anemia is commonly described, it is not known whether it is clinically relevant. This study set out to quantify the association of thyroid dysfunction on hemoglobin (Hb) concentration and risk of anemia. A systematic review (MEDLINE and EMBASE, from inception until May 15, 2017) was conducted to interpret the findings in context.

Methods: Participants from the EPIC-Norfolk cohort with available baseline thyrotropin (TSH), free thyroxine (fT4), and Hb were included. Euthyroidism was defined as TSH 0.45-4.49 mIU/L (reference category), hypothyroidism as TSH ≥4.50 mIU/L (subclinical [SHypo] with normal fT4 or overt [OHypo] with low fT4), and hyperthyroidism as TSH ≤0.44 mIU/L (subclinical [SHyper] with normal fT4 or overt [OHyper] with elevated fT4). Anemia was defined as Hb <12 g/dL in women and Hb <13 g/dL in men. In the cross-sectional analyses, multiple linear regression was used to compare Hb across TSH categories. In the prospective analysis, participants with OHypo/OHyper at baseline were excluded, as it was assumed that they were treated for overt thyroid disease. A covariance model was used to determine change in Hb concentration from baseline to last follow-up, and multivariable Cox regression was used to analyze anemia risk.

Results: In the cross-sectional population (n = 12,337), the adjusted Hb was 0.22 g/dL lower [confidence interval (CI) 0.07-0.38] in OHypo compared to euthyroids, and 0.08 g/dL lower [CI -0.23 to 0.38] in OHyper. In the prospective analysis, 460/7031 participants developed anemia over a median follow-up of 4.7 years. The adjusted mean Hb change over time was -0.04 g/dL in SHypo [CI -0.14 to 0.06] and 0.05 g/dL in SHyper [CI -0.10 to 0.20]. The adjusted hazard ratio for anemia was 0.99 [CI 0.67-1.48] in SHypo, and 0.52 [CI 0.23-1.16] in SHyper. The systematic review returned no other prospective studies on this association, but cross-sectional and case-control studies showed comparable results.

Conclusion: In this first prospective population-based cohort, subclinical thyroid dysfunction was not associated with a change in Hb concentration during follow-up and was not an independent risk factor for developing anemia; variations in Hb concentration in patients with overt thyroid dysfunction were not clinically relevant.

  • Anemia
  • Clinical relevance
  • Hemoglobin
  • Prospective population-based cohort
  • Thyroid dysfuntion
  • Thyrotropin
Affiliation Not a UNIGE publication
Research group
Citation (ISO format)
FLORIANI, Carmen et al. Thyroid Dysfunction and Anemia: A Prospective Cohort Study and a Systematic Review. In: Thyroid, 2018, vol. 28, n° 5, p. 575–582. doi: 10.1089/thy.2017.0480
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Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal1050-7256

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