Occurrence of pituitary dysfunction following traumatic brain injury

J Neurotrauma. 2004 Jun;21(6):685-96. doi: 10.1089/0897715041269713.


Traumatic brain injury (TBI) may be associated with impairment of pituitary hormone secretion, which may contribute to long-term physical, cognitive, and psychological disability. We studied the occurrence and risk factors of pituitary dysfunction, including growth hormone deficiency (GHD) in 50 patients (mean age 37.6 +/- 2.4 years; 40 males, age 20-60 years; 10 females, age 23-87 years) with TBI over 5 years. Cranial or facial fractures were documented in 12 patients, and neurosurgery was performed in 14. According to the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS), 16 patients had suffered from mild, 7 moderate, and 27 severe TBI. Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS) indicated severe disability in 5, moderate disability in 11, and good recovery in 34 cases. Basal pituitary hormone evaluation, performed once at times variable from 12 to 64 months after TBI, showed hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism in 7 (14%), central hypothyroidism in 5 (10%), low prolactin (PRL) levels in 4 (8%), and high PRL levels in 4 (8%) cases. All subjects had normal corticotrophic and posterior pituitary function. Seven patients showed low insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) levels for age and sex. Results of GHRH plus arginine testing indicated partial GHD in 10 (20%) and severe GHD in 4 (8%) cases. Patients with GHD were older (p <0.05) than patients with normal GH secretion. Magnetic resonance imaging demonstrated pituitary abnormalities in 2 patients; altogether pituitary dysfunction was observed in 27 (54%) patients. Six patients (12%) showed a combination of multiple abnormalities. Occurrence of pituitary dysfunction was 37.5%, 57.1%, and 59.3% in the patients with mild, moderate, and severe TBI, respectively. GCS scores were significantly (p <0.02) lower in patients with pituitary dysfunction compared to those with normal pituitary function (8.3 +/- 0.5 vs. 10.2 +/- 0.6). No relationship was detected between pituitary dysfunction and years since TBI, type of injury, and outcome from TBI. In conclusion, subjects with a history of TBI frequently develop pituitary dysfunction, especially GHD. Therefore, evaluation of pituitary hormone secretion, including GH, should be included in the long-term follow-up of all TBI patients so that adequate hormone replacement therapy may be administered.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain Injuries / complications*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Glasgow Outcome Scale
  • Human Growth Hormone / deficiency*
  • Humans
  • Hypopituitarism / diagnosis
  • Hypopituitarism / etiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pituitary Gland / physiopathology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors


  • Human Growth Hormone