Hypothalamic-pituitary function in growth hormone-deficient patients with pituitary stalk transection

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1988 Oct;67(4):817-23. doi: 10.1210/jcem-67-4-817.


We compared 1.5 T magnetic resonance (MR) image findings with hypothalamic-pituitary function in 11 patients with idiopathic pituitary dwarfism, each of whom had a history of perinatal abnormalities, and 1 patient with posttraumatic pituitary dwarfism. MR imaging revealed transection of the pituitary stalk in all patients and the formation of an ectopic posterior lobe at the proximal stump in 9 patients, none of whom had polydipsia or polyuria. Three patients without an ectopic posterior lobe had diabetes insipidus. The 5 patients who had small pituitary glands (less than 2 mm in height) had hypothyroidism with low serum TSH concentrations and low serum cortisol responses to insulin-induced hypoglycemia; however, 7 patients with normal-sized pituitary glands had normal thyroid and adrenal function. The serum GH response to GHRH did not correlate with the size of the pituitary gland. The patients with small pituitary glands had delayed or prolonged serum TSH responses to TRH and impaired serum LH and FSH responses to GnRH; 4 of the patients with normal-sized pituitary glands had normal serum TSH, LH, and FSH responses. Only 2 patients had high basal serum PRL concentrations. The endocrinological data suggest that reestablishment of the hypothalamo-hypophyseal portal circulation, which cannot be seen by MR imaging, may occur. We suggest that the primary cause of idiopathic pituitary dwarfism in many patients is injury to the pituitary stalk at birth.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dwarfism, Pituitary / diagnosis
  • Dwarfism, Pituitary / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / blood
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Growth Hormone / blood
  • Growth Hormone / deficiency*
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiopathology*
  • Luteinizing Hormone / blood
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Pituitary Gland / abnormalities
  • Pituitary Gland / injuries
  • Pituitary Gland / pathology*
  • Thyrotropin / blood


  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Luteinizing Hormone
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone
  • Thyrotropin
  • Growth Hormone