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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2004 Oct;89(10):4929-36.

Anterior pituitary dysfunction in survivors of traumatic brain injury.

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Academic Department of Endocrinology, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin 9, Ireland.


Recent data suggest that anterior pituitary dysfunction after traumatic brain injury (TBI) is common. We sought to confirm the results of earlier studies in a larger cohort of patients with dynamic testing of pituitary function. We studied 102 consecutive TBI survivors (85 males; median age 28, range 15-65 yr) who had survived severe or moderate TBI (initial Glasgow Coma Scale score 3-13) at a median of 17 months (range 6-36) post event. GH and ACTH reserves were initially assessed using the glucagon stimulation test (GST). Normative data on GH and cortisol responses to the GST were obtained from 31 matched healthy controls. Patients with subnormal GH or cortisol responses were further evaluated, using the insulin tolerance test (ITT) or arginine + GHRH test for GH assessment and the ITT or 250-microg short synacthen test for the assessment of ACTH reserve. Patients were considered to be GH or ACTH deficient if they failed both the GST and the second provocative test. Baseline thyroid function, prolactin, IGF-I, gonadotropins, testosterone, or estradiol was performed in all patients and compared with local reference ranges.In controls, normal response to the GST was a stimulated GH peak of greater than 5 microg/liter and cortisol peak greater than 450 nmol/liter (16 microg/dl). Eighteen TBI patients (17.6%) had GH response to the GST less than 5 microg/liter, 11 of whom also failed the ITT or the arginine + GHRH tests. GH-deficient patients had significantly higher body mass index (P = 0.003), and lower IGF-I concentrations (P < 0.001), than GH-sufficient patients. Twenty-three patients (22.5%) had cortisol responses to GST less than 450 nmol/liter, 13 of whom also failed the ITT or short synacthen test. GH or ACTH deficiencies were not related to age, Glasgow Coma Scale score, or the presence of other pituitary hormone abnormalities (P > 0.05). Twelve patients (11.8%) had gonadotropin and one (1%) had thyrotrophin deficiencies. Twelve patients (11.8%) had hyperprolactinemia. Twenty-nine patients (28.4%) had at least one anterior pituitary hormone deficiency. This is the largest study, to date, of hypopituitarism after TBI and confirms a high prevalence of undiagnosed anterior pituitary hormone abnormalities in survivors of TBI. Hypopituitarism is a treatable cause of morbidity after TBI. In addition to conventional pituitary hormone replacement, the potential of GH treatment to enhance recovery needs to be examined in a prospective study.

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