The cardiovascular system is an important target for thyroid hormones. The present study evaluates the changes affecting thyroid hormone metabolism during and 6 days after coronary artery bypass and their relationship with the post-operative outcome of the patients. Thirty-three patients were enrolled in the study; their thyroid hormone profiles were determined at 13 sampling points during surgery and for 6 days afterwards. Serum total tri-iodothyronine (T3) and free T3 (FT3) concentrations decreased significantly after surgery (P<0.001) and they remained significantly low until the end of the study. Free thyroxine (FT4) and T4 declined significantly immediately after surgery (P<0.05 for FT4, P<0.001 for T4) but they returned to baseline values (24 h and 96 h post-surgery respectively). Serum reverse T3 increased remarkably 36 h after surgery (P<0.001) and remained significantly higher than the baseline value throughout the study. A relevant finding was that the days of post-operative hospitalization (10+/-3 days, means+/-S.D.) was inversely correlated with the slope of the recovery of T3 concentration (P<0.001) or with the area under the plasma curves of T3 (P=0.024, time range 72-144 h) and the FT3/FT4 ratio (P=0.037, time range 72-144 h) during the post-operative period. Our data suggest a prolonged reduction of T4 to T3 conversion in patients undergoing cardiac surgery and indicate that the recovery period is the most critical in the evaluation of a possibly successful approach for T3 substitutive therapy.
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