Objective: To study the prevalence and pathogenesis of hypopituitarism following tuberculous meningitis in childhood.
Design: A retrospective cross-sectional study.
Setting: A university teaching hospital and a tuberculosis referral center.
Patients: Forty-nine patients, aged 23.4 +/- 6.0 years (mean +/- SD), who had tuberculous meningitis in childhood (age at diagnosis, 5.9 +/- 5.0 years) were studied.
Measurements: A detailed assessment of hypothalamic-pituitary function, including conventional stimulation tests and responses to four hypothalamic releasing hormones, was done. Magnetic resonance imaging of the hypothalamic-pituitary region was performed in patients with abnormal endocrine function.
Results: Ten patients were found to have abnormal pituitary function: Seven had growth hormone deficiency, four of whom also had gonadotropin deficiency; the other three had gonadotropin deficiency, corticotropin deficiency, and mild hyperprolactinemia, respectively; none had diabetes insipidus. Among those with growth hormone deficiency, a significant correlation (r = 0.749, P < 0.05) was found between the height standard deviation score and the age at diagnosis of tuberculous meningitis. Growth hormone, corticotropin, and gonadotropin responses to growth hormone releasing hormone, corticotropin releasing hormone, and gonadotropin releasing hormone, respectively, suggested a hypothalamic defect in five patients. Magnetic resonance imaging scans of the hypothalamic-pituitary region were abnormal in five patients.
Conclusions: Hypopituitarism was documented in 20% of a small subset of patients years after recovery from tuberculous meningitis in childhood. The cause appears to be tuberculous lesions affecting the hypothalamus, pituitary stalk and, directly or indirectly, the pituitary itself. Early recognition and treatment can be beneficial.