Overutilization and underutilization of thyroid function tests are major causes of diagnostic errors in pregnant women

Niti Vyas, Carol Carman, Mayukh K. Sarkar, Jose H. Salazar, Christopher J. Zahner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The failure to order the correct diagnostic test at the right time is one of the major contributing factors of diagnostic error. Excessive testing can lead to added economic burden and addressing underutilization is precarious as clinicians often fail to order the tests that would improve diagnosis, prognosis, and management. Methods: A retrospective analysis of errors in test orders of thyroid function testing (TFT) in 321 pregnant women suspected of clinical and subclinical thyroid disorders was performed. Test selection was evaluated, and determinations were made about the extent of overutilization and underutilization of TFTs in reviewing each individual patient case by a Doctorate in Clinical Laboratory Science (DCLS) scholar. Results: About 77% (247 cases) of the cases were found to have errors associated with test ordering for TFT. Of the cases reviewed, 18% cases were associated with overutilization, 53% of the cases were associated with underutilization, and 7% were associated with both (overutilization and underutilization). The annual cost burden because of ordering unnecessary tests was estimated to be approximately $13,000. The cost burden from errors resulting from not ordering a test would be of much greater magnitude but was difficult to estimate because underutilization has a ripple effect and may cause prolonged hospital stays, unnecessary medical bills, and delayed/ missed diagnosis leading to poor outcomes for patients. Conclusions: This study evaluated whether proper utilization of TFT were made at maternal health clinic locations of a large academic medical center in pregnant women to diagnose thyroid disorder and reported the issue of wastage of resources in the clinical laboratory. The study findings show significant errors in ordering of TFT for pregnant women in more than 75% of the cases that was based on evidence-based review of patient cases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1576-1582
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Laboratory
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Overutilization
  • Thyroid disorder
  • Thyroid function test
  • Underutilization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Overutilization and underutilization of thyroid function tests are major causes of diagnostic errors in pregnant women'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this