GH and Pituitary Hormone Alterations After Traumatic Brain Injury

Prog Mol Biol Transl Sci. 2016;138:167-91. doi: 10.1016/bs.pmbts.2015.10.010. Epub 2015 Nov 4.


Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a crucially important public health problem around the world, which gives rise to increased mortality and is the leading cause of physical and psychological disability in young adults, in particular. Pituitary dysfunction due to TBI was first described 95 years ago. However, until recently, only a few papers have been published in the literature and for this reason, TBI-induced hypopituitarism has been neglected for a long time. Recent studies have revealed that TBI is one of the leading causes of hypopituitarism. TBI which causes hypopituitarism may be characterized by a single head injury such as from a traffic accident or by chronic repetitive head trauma as seen in combative sports including boxing, kickboxing, and football. Vascular damage, hypoxic insult, direct trauma, genetic predisposition, autoimmunity, and neuroinflammatory changes may have a role in the development of hypopituitarism after TBI. Because of the exceptional structure of the hypothalamo-pituitary vasculature and the special anatomic location of anterior pituitary cells, GH is the most commonly lost hormone after TBI, and the frequency of isolated GHD is considerably high. TBI-induced pituitary dysfunction remains undiagnosed and therefore untreated in most patients because of the nonspecific and subtle clinical manifestations of hypopituitarism. Treatment of TBI-induced hypopituitarism depends on the deficient anterior pituitary hormones. GH replacement therapy has some beneficial effects on metabolic parameters and neurocognitive dysfunction. Patients with TBI without neuroendocrine changes and those with TBI-induced hypopituitarism share the same clinical manifestations, such as attention deficits, impulsion impairment, depression, sleep abnormalities, and cognitive disorders. For this reason, TBI-induced hypopituitarism may be neglected in TBI victims and it would be expected that underlying hypopituitarism would aggravate the clinical picture of TBI itself. Therefore, the diagnosis and treatment of unrecognized hypopituitarism due to TBI are very important not only to decrease morbidity and mortality due to hypopituitarism but also to alleviate the chronic sequelae caused by TBI.

Keywords: growth hormone deficiency (GHD); pituitary; traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / metabolism*
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / pathology
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / physiopathology
  • Growth Hormone / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hypopituitarism / metabolism
  • Hypopituitarism / pathology
  • Hypopituitarism / physiopathology
  • Pituitary Hormones / metabolism*
  • Warfare


  • Pituitary Hormones
  • Growth Hormone