Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease among patients with hypothalamic and pituitary dysfunction

Hepatology. 2004 Apr;39(4):909-14. doi: 10.1002/hep.20140.


Patients with hypopituitarism develop a phenotype similar to metabolic syndrome with central obesity and diabetes. Similarly, patients with hypothalamic damage may develop central obesity, insulin resistance, and hyperphagia. We sought to examine the clinical associations between hypopituitarism, hypothalamic dysfunction, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). A case series of patients seen at our institution with diagnoses of hypopituitarism, hypothalamic obesity, or craniopharyngioma and NAFLD was undertaken. Clinical, laboratory, and liver biopsy features were reviewed. Twenty-one patients were identified. NAFLD was diagnosed 6.4 +/- 7.5 years (median 3 years) after the diagnosis of hypothalamic/pituitary dysfunction. Mean gain in body mass index (BMI) between diagnoses of hypothalamic/pituitary disease and NAFLD was 11.3 +/- 8.9 kg/m(2) at an average yearly rate of 2.2 +/- 2.2 kg/m(2). The majority of patients developed elevated glucose levels and dyslipidemia by time of diagnosis of NAFLD. Of the 10 patients biopsied, six were cirrhotic, two had nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) with fibrosis, and two had simple steatosis. Long-term follow-up of 66 +/- 33 months (range 12-120) was available for 18 patients. Two required liver transplantation. Six patients died, two from liver related causes. In conclusion, patients with hypothalamic and/or pituitary disease are at risk of excessive weight gain, impaired glucose tolerance, and dyslipidemia with subsequent development of NAFLD. This group has a high prevalence of cirrhosis placing them at risk for liver-related death. The novel evidence that hypothalamic/pituitary dysfunction may be accompanied by progressive NAFLD has important implications for the work-up and management of patients with hypothalamic/pituitary disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acanthosis Nigricans / epidemiology
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Brain Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Fatty Liver / diagnosis*
  • Fatty Liver / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Humans
  • Hyperlipidemias / epidemiology
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Hypopituitarism / epidemiology*
  • Hypothalamic Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors