Introduction: Non-thyroidal illness (NTI), which occurs with fasting and in response to illness, is characterized by thyroid hormone inactivation with low triiodothyronine (T3) and high reverse T3 (rT3), followed by suppressed thyrotropin (TSH). Withholding supplemental parenteral nutrition early in pediatric critical illness (late-PN), thus accepting low/no macronutrient intake up to day 8 in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), accelerated recovery compared to initiating supplemental parenteral nutrition early (early-PN). Whether NTI is harmful or beneficial in pediatric critical illness and how it is affected by a macronutrient deficit remains unclear. This study investigated the prognostic value of NTI, the impact of late-PN on NTI, and whether such impact explains or counteracts the outcome benefit of late-PN in critically ill children.
Methods: This preplanned secondary analysis of the Early versus Late Parenteral Nutrition in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit randomized controlled trial quantified serum TSH, total thyroxine (T4), T3, and rT3 concentrations in 982 patients upon PICU admission versus 64 matched healthy children and in 772 propensity score–matched early-PN and late-PN patients upon admission and at day 3 or last PICU day for shorter PICU stay. Associations between thyroid hormone concentrations upon admission and outcome, as well as impact of late-PN on NTI in relation with outcome, were assessed with univariable analyses and multivariable logistic regression, linear regression, or Cox proportional hazard analysis, adjusted for baseline risk factors.
Results: Upon PICU admission, critically ill children revealed lower TSH, T4, T3, and T3/rT3 and higher rT3 than healthy children ( p < 0.0001). A more pronounced NTI upon admission, with low T4, T3, and T3/rT3 and high rT3 was associated with higher mortality and morbidity. Late-PN further reduced T4, T3, and T3/rT3 and increased rT3 ( p £ 0.001). Statistically, the further lowering of T4 by late-PN reduced the outcome benefit ( p < 0.0001), whereas the further lowering of T3/rT3 explained part of the outcome benefit of late-PN ( p £ 0.004). This effect was greater for infants than for older children.
Conclusion: In critically ill children, the peripheral inactivation of thyroid hormone, characterized by a decrease in T3/rT3, which is further accentuated by low/no macronutrient intake, appears beneficial. In contrast, the central component of NTI attributable to suppressed TSH, evidenced by the decrease in T4, seems to be a harmful response to critical illness. Whether treating the central component with TSH releasing hormone infusion in the PICU is beneficial requires further investigation.

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Keywords pediatrics, critical illness, non-thyroidal illness syndrome, nutrition, prognostic value
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Journal Thyroid
Jacobs, A, Derese, I, Vander Perre, S, van Puffelen, E, Verstraete, S, Pauwels, L, … Van den Berghe, G. (2019). Non-Thyroidal Illness Syndrome in Critically Ill Children: Prognostic Value and Impact of Nutritional Management. Thyroid, 29(4), 480–492. doi:10.1089/thy.2018.0420