AIM--To evaluate the clinical usefulness of the thyrotropin releasing hormone (TRH) test and estimation of thyroid autoantibody concentrations in patients with borderline raised thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). METHODS--The records of 34 consecutive patients with persistent borderline increased TSH (4.4-9.9 mU/l) referred to the Medical Investigation Unit were reviewed. The response of patients with thyroid autoantibodies to the TRH test was compared with that of patients with a negative antibody screen. RESULTS--Eleven (44%) of 25 patients with positive anti-thyroid microsomal and/or thyroglobulin antibody tests and three (33%) of nine patients with a negative antibody screen had hypothyroid responses to TRH. Neither age nor sex affected the response to TRH. Basal TSH alone was poorly correlated with these indices. Twelve (35%) patients who had elevated basal TSH had a normal response to the TRH test. CONCLUSION--Patients with positive or negative thyroid autoantibodies and an exaggerated response to the TRH test should be regarded as hypothyroid and treated with thyroxine. Patients with positive thyroid autoantibodies and normal TSH response may subsequently develop hypothyroidism and should be given long term follow up.