The effect of thyroxine and triiodothyronine on fatigue, depression, and memory in a hypothyroid population

Tom Rodriguez, The University of Texas School of Nursing at Houston


Background. This study was planned at a time when important questions were being raised about the adequacy of using one hormone to treat hypothyroidism instead of two. Specifically, this trial aimed to replicate prior findings which suggested that substituting 12.5 μg of liothyronine for 50 μg of levothyroxine might improve mood, cognition, and physical symptoms. Additionally, this trial aimed to extend findings to fatigue. Methods. A randomized, double-blind, two-period, crossover design was used. Hypothyroid patients stabilized on levothyroxine were invited to participate. Thirty subjects were recruited and randomized. Sequence one received their standard levothyroxine dose in one capsule and placebo in another during the first six weeks. Sequence two received their usual levothyroxine dose minus 50 μg in one capsule and 10 μg of liothyronine in another. At the end of the first six week period, subjects were crossed over. T tests were used to assess carry-over and treatment effects. Results. Twenty-seven subjects completed the trial. The majority of completers had an autoimmune etiology. Mean baseline levothyroxine dose was 121 μg/d (±26.0). Subjects reported small increases in fatigue as measured by the Piper Fatigue Scale (0.9, p = 0.09) and in symptoms of depression measured by the Beck Depression Inventory-II (2.3, p = 0.16) as well as the General Health Questionnaire-30 (4.7, p = 0.14) while treated with substitution treatment. However, none of these differences was statistically significant. Measures of working memory were essentially unchanged between treatments. Thyroid stimulating hormone was about twice as high during substitution treatment (p = 0.16). Free thyroxine index was reduced by 0.7 (p < 0.001), and total serum thyroxine was reduced by 3.0 (p < 0.001) while serum triiodothyronine was increased by 20.5 (p < 0.001) on substitution treatment. Conclusions. Substituting an equivalent amount of liothyronine for a portion of levothyroxine in patients with hypothyroidism does not decrease fatigue, symptoms of depression, or improve working memory. However, due to changes in serum hormone levels and small increments in fatigue and depression symptoms on substitution treatment, a question was raised about the role of T3 in the serum.

Subject Area

Surgery|Mental health|Nursing|Public health

Recommended Citation

Rodriguez, Tom, "The effect of thyroxine and triiodothyronine on fatigue, depression, and memory in a hypothyroid population" (2004). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3127136.