Generally, reverse triiodothyronine tests are not necessary since triiodothyronine should not be ordered in hospitalized or sick patients.
Reverse triiodothyronine (rT3) differs from triiodothyronine (T3) in the positions of the iodine atoms attached to the aromatic rings. The majority of rT3 found in the circulation is formed by peripheral deiodination (removal of an iodine atom) of T4 (thyroxine). rT3 is believed to be metabolically inactive.
The rT3 level tends to follow the T4 level: low in hypothyroidism and high in hyperthyroidism. Additionally, increased levels of rT3 have been observed in starvation, anorexia nervosa, severe trauma and hemorrhagic shock, hepatic dysfunction, postoperative states, severe infection, and in burn patients (ie, sick euthyroid syndrome). This appears to be the result of a switchover in deiodination functions with the conversion of T4 to rT3 being favored over the production of T3.
In hospitalized or sick patients with low triiodothyronine (T3) values, elevated reverse triiodothyronine (rT3) values are consistent with sick euthyroid syndrome. Also, the finding on an elevated rT3 level in a critically ill patient helps exclude a diagnosis of hypothyroidism.
The rT3 is high in patients on medications such as propylthiouracil, ipodate, propranolol, amiodarone, dexamethasone, and the anesthetic agent halothane. Dilantin decreases rT3 due to the displacement from thyroxine-binding globulin, which causes increased rT3 clearance.
To convert from ng/dL to nmol/L, multiply the ng/dL result by 0.01536.