Association Between Subclinical Thyroid Dysfunction and Fracture Risk

Natalie R. Daya, Anna Fretz, Seth S. Martin, Pamela L. Lutsey, Justin B. Echouffo-Tcheugui, Elizabeth Selvin, Stephen P. Juraschek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Importance: Clinical hyperthyroidism accelerates bone resorption without compensatory bone formation, reducing bone density and increasing the risk of fracture. The association between subclinical hyperthyroidism and fracture risk is less clear. Objective: To investigate the association of endogenous subclinical thyroid dysfunction and fracture risk, independent of clinical confounders. Design, Setting, and Participants: This cohort study included 10 946 participants from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study, an ongoing prospective cohort study of community-dwelling individuals conducted from 1987-1989 through December 31, 2019, in Washington County, Maryland; Forsyth County, North Carolina; Jackson, Mississippi; and the suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Participants were not taking thyroid medications and had no history of fractures. Exposures: Thyrotropin and free thyroxine levels were measured at visit 2 (1990-1992). Subclinical hyperthyroidism was defined as a thyrotropin level lower than 0.56 mIU/L, subclinical hypothyroidism as a thyrotropin level higher than 5.1 mIU/L, and euthyroidism as a thyrotropin level of 0.56 to 5.1 mIU/L, with normal free thyroxine levels from 0.85 to 1.4 ng/dL. Main Outcomes and Measures: Incident fracture was ascertained using hospitalization discharge codes through 2019 and linkage to inpatient and outpatient Medicare claims through 2018. Results: Of 10 946 participants (54.3% women; mean [SD] age, 57 [5.7] years), 93.0% had euthyroidism, 2.6% had subclinical hyperthyroidism, and 4.4% had subclinical hypothyroidism. During a median follow-up of 21 years (IQR, 13.0-27.3 years), there were 3556 incident fractures (167.1 per 10 000 person-years). The adjusted hazard ratios of fracture were 1.34 (95% CI, 1.09-1.65) for those with subclinical hyperthyroidism and 0.90 (95% CI, 0.77-1.05) for those with subclinical hypothyroidism compared with individuals with euthyroidism. Among those with normal free thyroxine levels, thyrotropin levels in the lower-than-normal range were significantly associated with higher fracture-related hospitalization risk; fracture risk was greater among individuals with thyrotropin concentrations below 0.56 mIU/L. Conclusions and Relevance: This community-based cohort study suggests that subclinical hyperthyroidism was an independent risk factor associated with fracture. The increased risk for fracture among individuals with a thyrotropin level lower than 0.56 mIU/L highlights a potential role for more aggressive screening and monitoring of patients with subclinical hyperthyroidism to prevent bone mineral disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e2240823
JournalJAMA Network Open
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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