Polyethylene glycol thyroid-stimulating hormone (PEG-TSH) testing in the management of pediatric thyroid dysfunction

Hussein Zaitoon, Gabi Shefer, Anat Segev-Becker, Ori Eyal, Yael Lebenthal, Avivit Brener*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The polyethylene glycol (PEG) methodology is used for investigating incongruities in laboratory assays, such as thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) measurements. The aim of the study is to investigate the practical application of PEG-TSH testing in cases of discrepancies between elevated TSH and normal free thyroxine (FT4) levels. Methods: A real-life observational study conducted in a tertiary medical center. The hospital’s electronic database was queried for TSH tests performed in pediatric patients between 2015 and 2023. Of those, PEG-TSH were identified. Patients’ clinical and biochemical characteristics and PEG-TSH-guided management were assessed. Results: In total, 2949 TSH tests were performed in 891 children and adolescents for various indications. Among them were 61 (2.1%) PEG-TSH results, mean age 7.1 ± 5.3 years, of 38 patients (4.3%), comprised of 16 with congenital hypothyroidism, 16 with subclinical hypothyroidism, and 6 with Hashimoto thyroiditis. Both the TSH and the PEG-TSH levels of patients with congenital hypothyroidism were higher than those of the other two groups (P = 0.021 and P = 0.009, respectively), with no group differences in FT4 levels. Spearman’s correlation analysis revealed a strong association between TSH and PEG-TSH levels: r = 0.871, P < 0.001. In nearly one-half of the cases, clinical decisions made by clinicians (decreasing the dose or not initiating L-thyroxine treatment) were affected by the PEG-TSH results. Conclusion: Our findings support PEG-TSH testing for determining appropriate TSH levels and avoid unnecessary thyroid hormone treatment among children and adolescents. We propose the suitability of managing their clinical condition based upon age-appropriate clinical parameters and FT4 levels when their PEG-TSH levels are within the normal range.

Original languageEnglish
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Congenital hypothyroidism
  • Hashimoto thyroiditis
  • Polyethylene glycol thyroid-stimulating hormone (PEG-TSH)
  • Subclinical hypothyroidism


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