Factors affecting the development of hypothalamus and pituitary lesions in fatal closed head injury: a prospective study

J Trauma. 2010 Aug;69(2):290-3. doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e3181b403b5.


Objectives: To determine the factors affecting the development of pituitary and hypothalamic lesions after fatal closed head injury.

Materials: Thirty-four patients with severe closed head injury succumbing to the effects of brain trauma before or during admission, whether managed conservatively or surgically, formed the study group. Clinical parameters, injury to death interval, radiologic data, and management details were taken into consideration. Autopsy was performed within 48 hours of death; hypothalamus and pituitary were carefully removed and evaluated for the presence of lesions on hematoxylin and eosin and immunohistochemical staining.

Results: Patients were categorized into early death group (n = 11, those succumbing before/on admission) and late death group (n = 23, those succumbing after admission). Histopathologic evaluation of pituitary revealed capsular hemorrhages in 50%, posterior pituitary hemorrhage in 25%, anterior pituitary infarct in 21.8%, and anterior pituitary hemorrhage in 6.2% patients. Hypothalamic hemorrhage was observed in 65.2% patients and infarcts in 17.3%. Lesions in hypothalamus and pituitary were significantly related to the presence of ventricular compression on computed tomography scan and survival of >24 hours after injury (p < 0.05). Capsular hemorrhage, anterior pituitary hemorrhage, and posterior pituitary hemorrhage were present in 40%, 10%, and 30% of the patients in the early death group when compared with 54.5%, 4.5%, and 22.7% of the patients in the late death group. Anterior pituitary infarcts were present in 10% of the patients with early deaths and 27.3% patients in the late death group. Hypothalamic hemorrhages were present in 44.4% of patients in early death and 78.6% in late death groups. Hypothalamic infarcts (40%) were present in the late death group only. Two patients (25%) in the early death group and 11 (84.6%) in the late death group had lesions in pituitary as well as hypothalamus (p < 0.05).

Conclusions: Presence of ventricular compression on computed tomography scan and survival >24 hours after severe head injury has a significant correlation with the development of hypothalamic and pituitary lesions. Secondary insults account for a proportion of pituitary and hypothalamic lesions after trauma, which may be amenable to prevention by early intervention to treat raised intracranial pressure (ICP)/herniation.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Autopsy
  • Cause of Death
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Head Injuries, Closed / complications*
  • Head Injuries, Closed / diagnostic imaging
  • Head Injuries, Closed / mortality*
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / injuries*
  • Hypothalamus / pathology*
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Intracranial Hypertension / complications
  • Intracranial Hypertension / diagnostic imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pituitary Gland / injuries*
  • Pituitary Gland / pathology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Young Adult