GH deficiency as the most common pituitary defect after TBI: clinical implications

Pituitary. 2005;8(3-4):239-43. doi: 10.1007/s11102-006-6047-z.


Recent studies have demonstrated that hypopituitarism, and in particular growth hormone deficiency (GHD), is common among survivors of traumatic brain injury (TBI) tested several months or years following head trauma. In addition, it has been shown that post-traumatic neuroendocrine abnormalities occur early and with high frequency. These findings may have significant implications for the recovery and rehabilitation of patients with TBI. The subjects at risk are those who have suffered moderate-to severe head trauma although mild intensity trauma may precede hypopituitarism also. Particular attention should be paid to this problem in children and adolescents. GH deficiency is very common in TBI, particularly isolated GHD. For the assessment of the GH-IGF axis in TBI patients, plasma IGF-I concentrations plus GH response to a provocative test is mandatory. Growth retardation secondary to GHD is a predominant feature of GHD after TBI in children. Clinical features of adult GHD are variable and in most obesity is present. Neuropsychological examinations of patients with TBI show that a significant portion of variables like attention, concentration, learning, memory, conceptual thinking, problem solving and language are impaired in patients with TBI. In the few case reports described, hormone replacement therapy in hormone deficient head-injured patients resulted in major neurobehavioral improvements. Improvements in mental-well being and cognitive function with GH replacement therapy in GHD adults have been reported. The effect of GH replacement in posttraumatic GHD needs to be examined in randomized controlled studies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Injuries / complications*
  • Brain Injuries / metabolism
  • Child
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Growth Hormone / deficiency*
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism
  • Pituitary Gland / metabolism*
  • Pituitary Gland / physiopathology
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / complications


  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I
  • Growth Hormone