Routine screening by brain magnetic resonance imaging is not indicated in every girl with onset of puberty between the ages of 6 and 8 years

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2014 Dec;99(12):4455-61. doi: 10.1210/jc.2014-2702.


Context: It is still controversial whether all girls with central precocious puberty (CPP) should undergo brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for unveiling intracranial pathology.

Objectives: The objectives of the study were to determine the prevalence and type of intracranial lesions in otherwise normal girls with central precocious puberty (idiopathic CPP) and to identify the clinical and biochemical predictors of brain abnormalities.

Design and setting: This was a retrospective study conducted at the Endocrine Unit of "Bambino Gesù" Children's Hospital (Rome, Italy) from 1990 to 2012.

Patients: One hundred eighty-two girls were consecutively diagnosed with CPP. All girls underwent a thorough endocrine assessment and brain MRI with a detailed examination of the hypothalamic-pituitary area. None of them had a history of neurological diseases, endocrine disorders, neurofibromatosis or other genetic syndromes, or previous hormonal therapies.

Main outcome measure: Prevalence of brain abnormalities at MRI scan was measured.

Results: Brain MRI showed no alteration in 157 (86%), incidentalomas of the hypothalamic-pituitary area unrelated to CPP in 19 (11%), and hamartomas in six girls (3%). Girls with hamartomas were younger than 6 years and had significantly higher mean baseline and stimulated LH values (P < .001), LH to FSH ratio (P < .001), serum 17β-estradiol levels (P < .001), and uterine length (P < .05). However, all the parameters overlapped extensively in girls with or without cerebral alterations.

Conclusions: Our data cast doubt on the need of routine screening by brain MRI in girls with idiopathic CPP older than 6 years. Evidence-based criteria to drive clinical decision making about the use of MRI are lacking.

MeSH terms

  • Age Determination by Skeleton
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain Diseases / epidemiology
  • Brain Diseases / pathology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / blood
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / pathology
  • Infant
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Pituitary Gland / pathology
  • Prevalence
  • Puberty, Precocious / diagnosis*
  • Puberty, Precocious / pathology*
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones