Cardiac atrial and ventricular parameters were determined by Doppler two-dimensional echocardiography at rest and exercise in 8 patients with subclinical hypothyroidism (SCH) (6 women and 2 men; age range: 28-48 years) before and 3 months after achievement of a euthyroid state with incremental adjustment of L-thyroxine therapy. None of the patients had known heart disease. At 3 months of L-thyroxine therapy, TSH levels decreased from 14.8 +/- 9.4 mIU/L to 3.0 +/- 1.5 mIU/L and FTI increased from 7.1 +/- 1.8 to 8.1 +/- 1.9. The cardiac studies were performed at rest, and during incremental exercise load (50, 100, 150 W workload) on a Quinton exercise bicycle. No significant differences were found between the subclinical hypothyroid and euthyroid states in systolic blood pressure at rest (104.8 +/- 12.3 vs 105 +/- 10.1 mm Hg) and exercise (158 +/- 24.9 vs 158.5 +/- 20.9 mm Hg) or diastolic blood pressure at rest (70 +/- 4.7 vs 69 +/- 5.7 mm Hg) and exercise (86 +/- 11.4 vs 89.2 +/- 7.3 mm Hg). All echocardiographic atrial and ventricular parameters were similar before and during L-thyroxine therapy with the exception of a small but significant change in left ventricular diastolic dimension (4.5 +/- 0.3 vs 4.8 +/- 0.4 cm; p < 0.05). All Doppler parameters were not significantly affected by L-thyroxine therapy with the exception of preejection period at stage III exercise (51 +/- 17 vs 39 +/- 13 msec; p < 0.05). Preejection period at other stages of exercise showed trends toward similar differences between subclinical hypothyroidism and euthyroidism, but the differences were not statistically significant. We conclude that the cardiac structure and function overall remains for practical purposes normal in subclinical hypothyroidism. However, the latter may be responsible for a mild prolongation of the preejection period during exercise and a slightly smaller left ventricular diastolic dimension at rest, changes that may not be of clinical significance in patients without underlying heart disease.
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