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Low FT3: a possible marker of frailty in the elderly

Authors Bertoli A, Valentini A, Cianfarani MA, Gasbarra E, Tarantino U, Federici M

Received 27 October 2016

Accepted for publication 17 December 2016

Published 10 February 2017 Volume 2017:12 Pages 335—341

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/CIA.S125934

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Akshita Wason

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Richard Walker


Aldo Bertoli,1 Alessia Valentini,1 Maria Assunta Cianfarani,1 Elena Gasbarra,2 Umberto Tarantino,2 Massimo Federici1

1Department of Systems Medicine, University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, Rome, Italy; 2Department of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, Rome, Italy


Introduction: Frailty is associated with a functional decline of multiple physiological systems, of which they may be a cause or consequence. The objective of the study was to evaluate the prevalence of thyroid hormone modifications in elderly frail subjects and its relationship with frailty.
Study population and methods: An observational study was carried out at the University Hospital “Tor Vergata” in Rome among ambulatory and hospitalized patients. The study population consisted of 112 elderly subjects: 62 were hospitalized following hip fracture and 50 control subjects were outpatients. Participating patients received a multidimensional geriatric evaluation. The Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe Frailty Instrument (SHARE-FI) was used to assess the degree of frailty. Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), free triiodothyronine (FT3), and free thyroxine (FT4) were measured to evaluate thyroid status.
Results: FT3, but not FT4, was significantly correlated with Frailty score, both in patients with hip fracture and in patients from the control group. In the entire study population, FT3 under normal limits is effective in discriminating frail/prefrail subjects from nonfrail subjects.
Discussion: The reduction in serum concentrations of FT3 is a clear manifestation of stress associated with fractures. Numerous preexisting factors, such as the fracture patients’ nutritional status, sarcopenia, disability and comorbidities, which characterize the condition of frailty and influence its pathogenesis, are strongly correlated with FT3 values, suggesting the existence of latent nonthyroidal illness syndrome (NTIS).
Conclusion: We conclude that measuring FT3 can be a useful laboratory parameter in clinical assessment, which can play an important role in identifying vulnerable elderly subjects and in quantifying the condition of frailty.

Keywords: FT3, frailty, NTIS, hip fracture, aging

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