Lymphocytic hypophysitis

Horm Res. 2007;68 Suppl 5:145-50. doi: 10.1159/000110611. Epub 2007 Dec 10.


Background: Lymphocytic hypophysitis is a disorder of the pituitary gland that presents as a sellar mass lesion and/or hypopituitarism. It causes pituicyte destruction and hypopituitarism and is speculated to have an autoimmune basis.

Diagnosis: Lymphocytic hypophysitis should be considered in the differential diagnosis of pituitary masses and/or hypopituitarism in females who are pregnant or in the early postpartum period, especially in cases associated with other autoimmune diseases or unusual patterns of hormone deficiencies. A definitive diagnosis requires tissue biopsy. A presumptive clinical diagnosis can be made based on a history of gestational or postpartum hypopituitarism, a contrast-enhancing sellar mass with imaging features characteristic of lymphocytic hypophysitis, a pattern of pituitary hormone deficiency with early loss of adrenocorticotrophic hormone and thyroid-stimulating hormone unlike that typically found with macroadenomas, relatively rapid development of hypopituitarism and a degree of pituitary failure disproportionate to the size of the mass. Symptoms resulting from partial or panhypopituitarism occur in approximately 80% of cases and multiple deficiencies are found in approximately 75% of cases.

Management: Appropriate management remains controversial. Corticosteroid therapy has been advocated as a means of attenuating inflammation, but given the uncertainty of its efficacy and the known adverse effects, such therapy does not seem justified for most patients. The optimal surgical strategy involves partial resection of the mass to decompress the surrounding structures. All patients with lymphocytic hypophysitis require appropriate replacement therapy for deficient hormones. Long-term follow-up is mandatory to monitor for the development of other hormonal deficits.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diagnostic Techniques, Endocrine*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / classification
  • Inflammation / drug therapy
  • Inflammation / etiology
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Lymphocytes / pathology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Pituitary Diseases / classification
  • Pituitary Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Pituitary Diseases / etiology
  • Pituitary Diseases / pathology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones