Radiation-induced hypopituitarism is dose-dependent

Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 1989 Sep;31(3):363-73. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2265.1989.tb01260.x.


Radiation-induced hypopituitarism has been studied prospectively for up to 12 years in 251 adult patients treated for pituitary disease with external radiotherapy, ranging in dose from 20 Gy in eight fractions over 11 days to 45 Gy in 15 fractions over 21 days. Ten further patients were studied 2-4 years after whole-body irradiation for haematological malignancies using 12 Gy in six fractions over 3 days and seven patients were studied 3-11 years after whole-brain radiotherapy for a primary brain tumour (30 Gy, eight fractions, 11 days). Five years after treatment, patients who received 20 Gy had an incidence of TSH deficiency of 9% and in patients treated with 35-37 Gy, 40 Gy and 42-45 Gy, the incidence of TSH deficiency (22, 35 and 52% respectively) increased significantly (P less than 0.001) with increasing dose. A similar relationship was observed for both ACTH and gonadotrophin deficiencies when the 20 Gy group was compared to patients treated with 35-45 Gy (P less than 0.01 and P less than 0.05 respectively). Growth hormone deficiency was universal by 5 years over the dose range 35-45 Gy. In seven patients who were treated with 30 Gy in eight fractions over 11 days, deficiencies were observed at a similar frequency to the 40 Gy group (15 fractions, 21 days). No evidence of pituitary dysfunction was detected in the ten patients who received 12 Gy (six fractions, 3 days). Both total radiation dose and fractionation schedule may determine the incidence of pituitary hormone deficiencies. The dose below which deficiencies do not occur is probably irrelevant to therapeutic irradiation of pituitary and other intracranial neoplasms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / metabolism
  • Growth Hormone / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypopituitarism / etiology*
  • Luteinizing Hormone / metabolism
  • Middle Aged
  • Pituitary Gland / radiation effects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Radiotherapy / adverse effects*
  • Thyrotropin / metabolism


  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Luteinizing Hormone
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone
  • Thyrotropin
  • Growth Hormone