According to findings from a longitudinal analysis published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, thyroid function is substantially different for adolescents and adults. Therefore, the use of adult reference ranges for thyroid function could lead to misdiagnosis in adolescents in Ohio.

Walsh and his colleagues evaluated thyroid function among nearly 3,000 adolescents and children who participated in the Brisbane Longitudinal Twin Study. The researchers calculated reference ranges for adolescents at ages 12, 14, and 16 years and compared ranges with corresponding adult range limits.

Researchers discovered that reference ranges were substantially different between adolescents and adults. The findings suggest that laboratories should use age and gender specific reference ranges for thyroid function tests in adolescents to avoid misdiagnosis of thyroid-related dysfunction.

The application of adult reference range could result in significant misdiagnosis, especially for adolescents between the ages of 12 and 14. For instance, the use of adult reference range could result in the misdiagnosis of up to 58% of 14-year-old boys and up to 35% of 12-year-old girls as having elevated hormone levels when their levels were, in fact, normal for their ages and genders.

Medicine is an evolving practice. Without the information about the differences between teen and adult thyroid levels, it is easy to see how a laboratory could misdiagnose a teenager with elevated thyroid levels. Lack of information is only one reason for misdiagnosis. Many patients are misdiagnosed due to carelessness or simple human error. Whatever the reason, the misdiagnosis of a disease or condition can lead to future complications. A patient who has experienced health consequences as the result of a misdiagnosis may be entitled to compensation. A medical malpractice lawyer can evaluate a patient’s misdiagnosis to find out whether compensation might be warranted.