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Thyroid function tests

Definition

Thyroid function tests are used to check whether your thyroid is working normally.

The most common thyroid function tests are:

  • Free T4 (the main thyroid hormone in your blood -- a precursor for T3)
  • TSH (the hormone from the pituitary gland that stimulates the thyroid to produce T4)
  • Total T3 (the active form of the hormone -- T4 is converted to T3)

If you are being screened for thyroid disease, often only the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) test may be needed.

Other thyroid tests include:

  • Total T4 (the free hormone and the hormone bound to carrier proteins)
  • Free T3 (the free active hormone)
  • T3 resin uptake (an older test that is rarely used now)
  • Thyroid uptake and scan
  • Thyroid binding globulin
  • Thyroglobulin

The vitamin biotin (B7) can affect the results of many thyroid hormone tests. If you take biotin, talk to your provider before you have any thyroid function tests.

References

Guber HA, Farag AF. Evaluation of endocrine function. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 23rd ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2017:chap 24.

Kim G, Nandi-Munshi D, Diblasi CC. Disorders of the thyroid gland. In: Gleason CA, Juul SE, eds. Avery's Diseases of the Newborn. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 98.

Salvatore D, Cohen R, Kopp PA, Larsen PR. Thyroid pathophysiology and diagnostic evaluation. In: Melmed S, Auchus RJ, Golfine AB, Koenig RJ, Rosen CJ, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 14th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 11.

Weiss RE, Refetoff S. Thyroid function testing. In: Jameson JL, De Groot LJ, de Kretser DM, et al, eds. Endocrinology: Adult and Pediatric. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 78.


Review Date: 1/26/2020
Reviewed By: Brent Wisse, MD, board certified in Metabolism/Endocrinology, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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