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Serum concentrations of total T3 and T4, free T4, rT3, TSH, TBG and cortisol were measured on arrival in hospital in 33 adult injured patients, 26 of whom were received directly from the accident. Serum cortisol levels and all thyroid indices, except TBG, were altered substantially by injury. Compared with values from 57 healthy volunteers, statistically significant (P < 0.01) decreases were found in the mean serum free and total T4 concentrations and the rT3 level. Similarly significant (P < 0.001) increases were seen in the mean serum T3, TSH and cortisol concentrations.
Repeated assessment of thyroid function in six patients suggested a biphasic response to injury by TSH, T3 and rT3. The first phase was of short duration (1–2 h). Serum levels of TSH and T3 were above normal, and rT3 was decreased. These data suggest participation by the thyroid in the ‘fight-or-flight’ response to life-threatening stress. The second phase was fully established 6–18 h after injury and was characterized by reductions in serum TSH, T3 and total and free T4 and a rise in rT3. This pattern persisted throughout the 2-week period of measurement. Thus, as in other critical illnesses, the ‘low T3’ syndrome is common in severely injured patients. However, changes in thyroid hormone metabolism after injury are of greater intensity and longer duration.
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Accepted: December 18, 1986
© 1987 Published by Elsevier Inc.