What is the role of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the etiology of hypopituitarism (panhypopituitarism)?

Updated: Jun 09, 2020
  • Author: Bernard Corenblum, MD, FRCPC; Chief Editor: Romesh Khardori, MD, PhD, FACP  more...
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Pituitary apoplexy denotes the sudden destruction of the pituitary tissue resulting from infarction or hemorrhage into the pituitary. The most likely cause of the apoplexy is brain trauma; however, it can occur in patients with diabetes mellitus, pregnancy, sickle cell anemia, blood dyscrasias or anticoagulation, or increased intracranial pressure. Apoplexy usually spares the posterior pituitary and solely affects the anterior pituitary. In patients with such underlying diseases, Sheehan syndrome can occur with lesser degrees of postpartum hemorrhage or hypotension.

Head trauma from a motor vehicle accident, a fall, or a projectile can cause hypopituitarism by direct damage to the pituitary or by injuring the pituitary stalk or the hypothalamus. Hypopituitarism may occur immediately, or it may develop months or years later. Recovery can occur from regeneration. Many studies show an incidence of 15-40%, [6] but a study by Kokshoorn et al found the incidence of clinically significant posttraumatic hypopituitarism to be low. [7]

In a study by Giuliano et al of hypopituitarism in adults associated with complicated mild traumatic brain injury, consequent growth hormone deficiency existed in a subset of patients even several years postinjury. Visceral adiposity and metabolic changes were associated with the deficiency. [8]

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