Fetal and neonatal hyperthyroidism

Donald Zimmerman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

205 Scopus citations


Fetal and neonatal hyperthyroidism are usually produced by transplacental passage of thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulins. Most commonly, the thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulins are a component of active maternal Graves' disease. However, such antibodies may continue to be produced after ablation of the thyroid by surgery, radioiodine, or by the immune mechanisms of Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Other mechanisms that have produced fetal and neonatal hyperthyroidism include activating mutations of the stimulatory G protein in McCune-Albright syndrome and activating mutations of the thyrotropin (TSH) receptor. Fetal hyperthyroidism may be associated with intrauterine growth retardation, nonimmune fetal hydrops, craniosynostosis, and intrauterine death. Features of this condition in the neonate include hyperkinesis, diarrhea, poor weight gain, vomiting, ophthalmopathy, cardiac failure and arrhythmias, systemic and pulmonary hypertension, hepatosplenomegaly, jaundice, hyperviscosity syndrome, thrombocytopenia, and craniosynostosis. The time course of thyrotoxicosis depends on etiology. Remission by 20 weeks is most common in neonatal Graves' disease; remission by 48 weeks is nearly always seen. A subset of these patients may have persistent disease when there is a strong family history of Graves' diseases. Disease persistence is characteristic of patients with activating mutations of the TSH receptor. Treatment of fetal hyperthyroidism comprises administration of antithyroid drugs to the mother. Fetal heart rate and fetal growth should be monitored. Ultrasonography may reveal changes in thyroid size. At times, cordocentesis may be useful for monitoring fetal thyroid function. Hyperthyroid neonates may be treated with antithyroid drugs, β- adrenergic receptor blocking agents, iodine, or iodinated contrast agents, and at times, with glucocorticoids and digoxin. Nonremitting causes of neonatal hyperthyroidism require ablative treatments such as thyroidectomy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)727-733
Number of pages7
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jan 1 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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