T4 (thyroxine) is the main hormone produced by the thyroid gland. A laboratory test can be done to measure the amount of free T4 in your blood. Free T4 is the thyroxine that is not attached to a protein in the blood.
A blood sample is needed.
Your health care provider will tell you if you need to stop taking any medicines that may affect the test result. In general, test results are not affected by other medicines you may be taking. However, certain supplements including biotin (vitamin B7) can affect the results. Tell your provider if you are taking biotin.
Pregnancy and some diseases, including kidney and liver disease, can also affect the results of this test.
When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain. Others feel only a prick or stinging. Afterward, there may be some throbbing or a slight bruise. This soon goes away.
Your provider may recommend this test if you have signs of a thyroid disorder, including:
This test is also used to monitor people who are being treated for thyroid problems.
A typical normal range is 0.9 to 2.3 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL), or 12 to 30 picomoles per liter (pmol/L).
Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Some laboratories use different measurements or may test different specimens. Talk to your provider about the meaning of your specific test results.
The normal range is based on a large population and is not necessarily normal for an individual. You may be having symptoms of hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism even though your free T4 is in the normal range. The TSH test may help determine if your symptoms are related to thyroid disease. Talk to your provider about your symptoms.
To fully understand results of the free T4 test, results of other thyroid blood tests, such as TSH or T3, may be needed.
Test results may also be affected by pregnancy, estrogen level, liver problems, more severe body-wide illnesses, and inherited changes in a protein that binds T4.
A higher than normal level of T4 may be due to conditions that involve an overactive thyroid, including:
A lower than normal level of T4 may be due to:
There is little risk involved with having your blood taken. Veins and arteries vary in size from one person to another and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.
Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight, but may include:
Reviewed By: Brent Wisse, MD, board certified in Metabolism/Endocrinology, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.