2001 Volume 48 Issue 3 Pages 355-362
A gradual loss of anterior pituitary hormones is suspected in patients treated with irradiation due to brain tumors. Development of growth hormone deficiency (GHD) with age has been documented in patients with idiopathic GHD. A gradual loss of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) secretion has been also shown in a patient with severe GHD and an invisible pituitary stalk on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The purpose of this longitudinal and cross-sectional study was to evaluate the gradual loss of growth hormone (GH) and ACTH in a homogeneous group of patients with hypopituitarism. Twenty-eight patients (23 males, 5 females) from four hospitals were diagnosed as having prenatal or perinatal-onset hypothalamic hypopituitarism. They had an abnormal pituitary stalk on MRI (invisible in 18 patients, thin in 10 patients) without any other organic disease of the brain. Each patient had GHD upon initial evaluation. Height (n=20) was analyzed as standard deviation score (SDS). Longitudinal (n=8) and cross-sectional (n=28) GH secretion capacity was evaluated by GH peaks, in response to insulin tolerance test (ITT) and growth hormone releasing factor test (GRF test). Longitudinal (n=10) and cross- sectional (n=28) ACTH secretion capacity was evaluated by cortisol peaks in response to ITT. Height SDS decreased each year in all the untreated patients after birth. GH peaks decreased gradually with age. Longitudinal data showed decreased GH peaks with age in seven out of eight patients using ITT and in all four patients using GRF tests. Cortisol peaks also decreased gradually together with signs and symptoms for adrenal deficiency such as general fatigue. Cortisol peaks of less than 414nmol/L (15μg/dl) in response to ITT were seen in 24% of the tests before age 10 and 56% before age 25. In conclusion, GHD and ACTH deficiency developed gradually in patients with prenatal or perinatal-onset hypothalamic hypopituitarism who had invisible or thin pituitary stalks examined by MRI.