Central diabetes insipidus: Is it Langerhans cell histiocytosis of the pituitary stalk? A diagnostic pitfall

Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2006 Mar;46(3):363-6. doi: 10.1002/pbc.20027.


Central diabetes insipidus (CDI) is a rare disorder that may be caused by a variety of diseases. In pediatric and adolescent patients the most common causes for CDI are Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH) and germinoma. To avoid a potentially hazardous biopsy of the hypothalamic pituitary region it is recommended to evaluate patients with CDI carefully to identify potential extracranial lesions. Since LCH is the most common systemic disease that may cause CDI, special focus is paid to the identification of LCH lesions. We report on a 9(1/2) year old girl who presented with central diabetes insipidus and a thickening of the pituitary stalk on magnetic resonance imaging. Diagnostic workup revealed a history of recurrent ear infections and a compressed 6th thoracic vertebral body on radiographs. Based on these findings LCH was anticipated. Upon growth of the pituitary stalk lesion the patient was treated with LCH standard chemotherapy. After an initial shrinkage of the lesion, a further growth of the pituitary stalk lesion was observed and the tumor was resected. Histopathology revealed germinoma. This case underscores the importance of a istopathologically proven diagnosis in patients with HPR tumors before the initiation of a specific therapy, even if the clinical findings are highly suggestive.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy
  • Child
  • Diabetes Insipidus, Neurogenic / complications
  • Diabetes Insipidus, Neurogenic / pathology*
  • Female
  • Germinoma / complications
  • Germinoma / drug therapy
  • Germinoma / pathology*
  • Histiocytosis, Langerhans-Cell / complications
  • Histiocytosis, Langerhans-Cell / drug therapy
  • Histiocytosis, Langerhans-Cell / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Pituitary Gland / pathology*
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / complications
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / pathology*