Clinical case seminar: lymphocytic hypophysitis: clinicopathological findings

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1995 Aug;80(8):2302-11. doi: 10.1210/jcem.80.8.7629223.


This report describes the clinicopathological features of 16 patients with lymphocytic hypophysitis and compares the results with the published literature. There were 2 males and 14 females in this series. In 10 of the 14 females (71%), the presentation was associated with pregnancy. Nine patients (56%) presented with symptoms of an expanding pituitary sellar mass, 10 (63%) had anterior pituitary hypofunction, 3 had diabetes insipidus (19%). Progressive undiagnosed hypopituitarism led to the demise of 3 patients (19%). Hyperprolactinemia was encountered in 6 patients (38%), and elevated growth hormone levels (GH) resulted in IGF-1 excess in one patient. Computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance (MR) imaging revealed features of a pituitary mass mimicking an adenoma in 10 cases (83%). Four patients (25%) had associated autoimmune thyroiditis. Morphologic examination of the pituitary and immunohistochemistry showed a polyclonal lymphoplasmacytic infiltrate as well as occasional neutrophils, eosinophils, and macrophages; the chronic inflammatory process resulted in focal or diffuse adenohypophysial destruction of variable severity with associated fibrosis. The inflammatory infiltrate involved the neurohypophysis in 2 cases and one of these patients had diabetes insipidus; the posterior lobe of two other patients with diabetes insipidus was not examined morphologically. We conclude that lymphocytic hypophysitis should be considered in the differential diagnosis of females with pituitary enlargement presenting in the peripartum period as well as those patients in whom pituitary hormone deficiency and/or excess is noted in association with a co-existing autoimmune disorder. This clinical suspicion should probably also be extended to include patients presenting with rapidly growing pituitary masses associated with compressive symptoms with or without pituitary hormone dysfunction. Because of the transient endocrine and compressive features of this condition in many instances, conservative treatment on the basis of clinical suspicion alone may obviate the need for aggressive pituitary surgery.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Fibrosis
  • Humans
  • Hyperprolactinemia / pathology
  • Hyperprolactinemia / physiopathology
  • Hypopituitarism / pathology
  • Hypopituitarism / physiopathology
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lymphocytes / pathology
  • Lymphocytes / ultrastructure
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Middle Aged
  • Pituitary Diseases / diagnosis
  • Pituitary Diseases / pathology*
  • Pituitary Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Pituitary Gland / pathology*
  • Pituitary Gland / ultrastructure
  • Pituitary Gland, Anterior / pathology
  • Pituitary Gland, Anterior / ultrastructure
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / diagnosis
  • Pregnancy Complications / pathology
  • Pregnancy Complications / physiopathology*