Systemic complications of acromegaly: epidemiology, pathogenesis, and management

Endocr Rev. 2004 Feb;25(1):102-52. doi: 10.1210/er.2002-0022.


This review focuses on the systemic complications of acromegaly. Mortality in this disease is increased mostly because of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, although currently neoplastic complications have been questioned as a relevant cause of increased risk of death. Biventricular hypertrophy, occurring independently of hypertension and metabolic complications, is the most frequent cardiac complication. Diastolic and systolic dysfunction develops along with disease duration; and other cardiac disorders, such as arrhythmias, valve disease, hypertension, atherosclerosis, and endothelial dysfunction, are also common in acromegaly. Control of acromegaly by surgery or pharmacotherapy, especially somatostatin analogs, improves cardiovascular morbidity. Respiratory disorders, sleep apnea, and ventilatory dysfunction are also important contributors in increasing mortality and are advantageously benefitted by controlling GH and IGF-I hypersecretion. An increased risk of colonic polyps, which more frequently recur in patients not controlled after treatment, has been reported by several independent investigations, although malignancies in other organs have also been described, but less convincingly than at the gastrointestinal level. Finally, the most important cause of morbidity and functional disability of the disease is arthropathy, which can be reversed at an initial stage, but not if the disease is left untreated for several years.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acromegaly / complications*
  • Acromegaly / epidemiology
  • Acromegaly / mortality
  • Acromegaly / therapy*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / therapy
  • Human Growth Hormone / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism
  • Joint Diseases / etiology*
  • Joint Diseases / therapy
  • Lung Diseases / etiology*
  • Lung Diseases / therapy
  • Metabolic Diseases / etiology*
  • Metabolic Diseases / therapy
  • Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy


  • Human Growth Hormone
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I