Clinical features and difficulty in diagnosis of Langerhans cell histiocytosis in the hypothalamic-pituitary region

Endocr J. 2022 Apr 28;69(4):441-449. doi: 10.1507/endocrj.EJ21-0341. Epub 2021 Nov 13.


Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH) is a multi-organ disorder that rarely involves the hypothalamic-pituitary region (HPR). HPR-LCH presents with severe progressive pituitary dysfunction and its prognosis is poor. The definitive diagnosis of LCH is considerably difficult and complicated owing to the occurrence of several diseases with similar manifestations in the HPR and its location in the deepest portion of the anterior skull base, in close proximity to important normal structures, severely limiting the size of the biopsy specimen. Chemotherapy is the established treatment modality for LCH; hence, timely and accurate diagnosis of LCH is essential for early therapeutic intervention. We retrospectively reviewed clinical features and biopsy procedures in four patients with HPR-LCH (all female, 28-44 years old) from 2009 to 2020. Maximum diameter of supra-sellar lesions was 23-35 mm and 2 cases had skip lesions. All patients demonstrated central diabetes insipidus, hyper-prolactinemia, and severe anterior pituitary dysfunction. Two of the patients had progressive disease. Furthermore, four patients presented body weight gain, two visual disturbance, and two impaired consciousness. The duration from onset to diagnosis of LCH was 3 to 10 (average 7.25) years. In total, eight operations were performed until final diagnosis. The percentage of correct diagnosis by biopsy was 50% (4/8). Clinical features of HPR-LCH are very similar to those of other HPR diseases, and their symptoms are progressive and irreversible. Clinicians should consider repeated biopsy with a more aggressive approach if the lesion is refractory to steroid therapy, in order to ensure accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Keywords: Accurate pathological diagnosis; Biopsy; Clinical features; Hypothalamic-pituitary region; Langerhans cell histiocytosis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Histiocytosis, Langerhans-Cell* / diagnosis
  • Histiocytosis, Langerhans-Cell* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamic Diseases* / complications
  • Hypothalamic Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Pituitary Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Pituitary Diseases* / therapy
  • Pituitary Gland / diagnostic imaging
  • Pituitary Gland / pathology
  • Retrospective Studies