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TPS50601-SP: Is thermal pad strictly for heat dissipation or for current sinking as well?

Part Number: TPS50601-SP

Hi there,

The TPS50601-SP datasheet states that the the thermal pad and PGND need to be connected together on the PCB. The thermal pad and GND signal are connected in the IC package (continuity manually verified).

If the thermal pad is not connected to GND, is it sufficient to connect GND (pin 1) and PGND (pin 8-10) on the PCB? Or is the thermal pad required for current sinking? 

The current design configuration has the package upside-down, with a heat sink on the thermal pad that is facing upward.