Endocrinology (part 2 – pituitary)

Below I have added some observations from the second chapter of the book, which covers the pituitary gland.

“The pituitary gland is centrally located at the base of the brain in the sella turcica within the sphenoid bone. It is attached to the hypothalamus by the pituitary stalk and a fine vascular network. […] The pituitary measures around 13mm transversely, 9mm anteroposteriorly, and 6mm vertically and weighs approximately 100mg. It increases during pregnancy to almost twice its normal size, and it decreases in the elderly. *Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) currently provides the optimal imaging of the pituitary gland. *Computed tomography (CT) scans may still be useful in demonstrating calcification in tumours […] and hyperostosis in association with meningiomas or evidence of bone destruction. […] T1– weighted images demonstrate cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) as dark grey and brain as much whiter. This imagining is useful for demonstrating anatomy clearly. […] On T1– weighted images, pituitary adenomas are of lower signal intensity than the remainder of the normal gland. […] The presence of microadenomas may be difficult to demonstrate.”

“Hypopituitarism refers to either partial or complete deficiency of anterior and/or posterior pituitary hormones and may be due to [primary] pituitary disease or to hypothalamic pathology which interferes with the hypothalamic control of the pituitary. Causes: *Pituitary tumours. *Parapituitary tumours […] *Radiotherapy […] *Pituitary infarction (apoplexy), Sheehan’s syndrome. *Infiltration of the pituitary gland […] *infection […] *Trauma […] *Subarachnoid haemorrhage. *Isolated hypothalamic-releasing hormone deficiency, e.g. Kallmann’s syndrome […] *Genetic causes [Let’s stop here: Point is, lots of things can cause pituitary problems…] […] The clinical features depend on the type and degree of hormonal deficits, and the rate of its development, in addition to whether there is intercurrent illness. In the majority of cases, the development of hypopituitarism follows a characteristic order, which secretion of GH [growth hormone, US], then gonadotrophins being affected first, followed by TSH [Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone, US] and ACTH [Adrenocorticotropic Hormone, US] secretion at a later stage. PRL [prolactin, US] deficiency is rare, except in Sheehan’s syndrome associated with failure of lactation. ADH [antidiuretic hormone, US] deficiency is virtually unheard of with pituitary adenomas but may be seen rarely with infiltrative disorders and trauma. The majority of the clinical features are similar to those occurring when there is target gland insufficiency. […] NB Houssay phenomenon. Amelioration of diabetes mellitus in patients with hypopituitarism due to reduction in counter-regulatory hormones. […] The aims of investigation of hypopituitarism are to biochemically assess the extent of pituitary hormone deficiency and also to elucidate the cause. […] Treatment involves adequate and appropriate hormone replacement […] and management of the underlying cause.”

“Apoplexy refers to infarction of the pituitary gland due to either haemorrhage or ischaemia. It occurs most commonly in patients with pituitary adenomas, usually macroadenomas […] It is a medical emergency, and rapid hydrocortisone replacement can be lifesaving. It may present with […] sudden onset headache, vomiting, meningism, visual disturbance, and cranial nerve palsy.”

“Anterior pituitary hormone replacement therapy is usually performed by replacing the target hormone rather than the pituitary or hypothalamic hormone that is actually deficient. The exceptions to this are GH replacement […] and when fertility is desired […] [In the context of thyroid hormone replacement:] In contrast to replacement in [primary] hypothyroidism, the measurement of TSH cannot be used to assess adequacy of replacment in TSH deficiency due to hypothalamo-pituitary disease. Therefore, monitoring of treatment in order to avoid under- and over-replacement should be via both clinical assessment and by measuring free thyroid hormone concentrations […] [In the context of sex hormone replacement:] Oestrogen/testosterone administration is the usual method of replacement, but gonadotrophin therapy is required if fertility is desired […] Patients with ACTH deficiency usually need glucocorticoid replacement only and do not require mineralcorticoids, in contrast to patients with Addison’s disease. […] Monitoring of replacement [is] important to avoid over-replacement which is associated with BP, elevated glucose and insulin, and reduced bone mineral density (BMD). Under-replacement leads to the non-specific symptoms, as seen in Addison’s disease […] Conventional replacement […] may overtreat patients with partial ACTH deficiency.”

“There is now a considerable amount of evidence that there are significant and specific consequences of GH deficiency (GDH) in adults and that many of these features improve with GH replacement therapy. […] It is important to differentiate between adult and childhood onset GDH. […] the commonest cause in childhood is an isolated variable deficiency of GH-releasing hormone (GHRH) which may resolve in adult life […] It is, therefore, important to retest patients with childhood onset GHD when linear growth is completed (50% recovery of this group). Adult onset. GHD usually occurs [secondarily] to a structural pituitary or parapituitary condition or due to the effects of surgical treatment or radiotherapy. Prevalence[:] *Adult onset GHD 1/10,000 *Adult GHD due to adult and childhood onset GHD 3/10,000. Benefits of GH replacement[:] *Improved QoL and psychological well-being. *Improved exercise capacity. *↑ lean body mass and reduced fat mass. *Prolonged GH replacement therapy (>12-24 months) has been shown to increase BMD, which would be expected to reduce fracture rate. *There are, as yet, no outcome studies in terms of cardiovascular mortality. However, GH replacement does lead to a reduction (~15%) in cholesterol. GH replacement also leads to improved ventricular function and ↑ left ventricular mass. […] All patients with GHD should be considered for GH replacement therapy. […] adverse effects experienced with GH replacement usually resolve with dose reduction […] GH treatment may be associated with impairment of insulin sensitivity, and therefore markers of glycemia should be monitored. […] Contraindications to GH replacement[:] *Active malignancy. *Benign intracranial hypertension. *Pre-proliferative/proliferative retinopathy in diabetes mellitus.”

“*Pituitary adenomas are the most common pituitary disease in adults and constitute 10-15% of primary brain tumours. […] *The incidence of clinically apparent pituitary disease is 1 in 10,000. *Pituitary carcinoma is very rare (<0.1% of all tumours) and is most commonly ACTH- or prolactin-secreting. […] *Microadenoma <1cm. *Macroadenoma >1cm. [In terms of the functional status of tumours, the break-down is as follows:] *Prolactinoma 35-40%. *Non-functioning 30-35%. Growth hormone (acromegaly) 10-15%. *ACTH adenoma (Cushing’s disease) 5-10% *TSH adenoma <5%. […] Pituitary disease is associated with an increased mortality, predominantly due to vascular disease. This may be due to oversecretion of GH or ACTH, hormone deficiencies or excessive replacement (e.g. of hydrocortisone).”

“*Prolactinomas are the commonest functioning pituitary tumour. […] Malignant prolactinomas are very rare […] [Clinical features of hyperprolactinaemia:] *Galactorrhoea (up to 90%♀, <10% ♂). *Disturbed gonadal function [menstrual disturbance, infertility, reduced libido, ED in ♂] […] Hyperprolactinaemia is associated with a long-term risk of BMD. […] Hypothyroidism and chronic renal failure are causes of hyperprolactinaemia. […] Antipsychotic agents are the most likely psychotrophic agents to cause hyperprolactinaemia. […] Macroadenomas are space-occupying tumours, often associated with bony erosion and/or cavernous sinus invasion. […] *Invasion of the cavernous sinus may lead to cranial nerve palsies. *Occasionally, very invasive tumours may erode bone and present with a CSF leak or [secondary] meningitis. […] Although microprolactinomas may expand in size without treatment, the vast majority do not. […] Macroprolactinomas, however, will continue to expand and lead to pressure effects. Definite treatment of the tumour is, therefore, necessary.”

“Dopamine agonist treatment […] leads to suppression of PRL in most patients [with prolactinoma], with [secondary] effects of normalization of gonadal function and termination of galactorrhoea. Tumour shrinkage occurs at a variable rate (from 24h to 6-12 months) and extent and must be carefully monitored. Continued shrinkage may occur for years. Slow chiasmal decompression will correct visual field defects in the majority of patients, and immediate surgical decompression is not necessary. […] Cabergoline is more effective in normalization of PRL in microprolactinoma […], with fewer side effects than bromocriptine. […] Tumour enlargement following initial shrinkage on treatment is usually due to non-compliance. […] Since the introduction of dopamine agonist treatment, transsphenoidal surgery is indicated only for patients who are resistant to, or intolerant of, dopamine agonist treatment. The cure rate for macroprolactinomas treated with surgery is poor (30%), and, therefore, drug treatment is first-line in tumours of all size. […] Standard pituitary irradiation leads to slow reduction (over years) of PRL in the majority of patients. […] Radiotherapy is not indicated in the management of patients with microprolactinomas. It is useful in the treatment of macroprolactinomas once the tumour has been shrunken away from the chiasm, only if the tumour is resistant.”

“Acromegaly is the clinical condition resulting from prolonged excessive GH and hence IGF-1 secretion in adults. GH secretion is characterized by blunting of pulsatile secretion and failure of GH to become undetectable during the 24h day, unlike normal controls. […] *Prevalence 40-86 cases/million population. Annual incidence of new cases in the UK is 4/million population. *Onset is insidious, and there is, therefore, often a considerable delay between onset of clinical features and diagnosis. Most cases are diagnosed at 40-60 years. […] Pituitary gigantism [is] [t]he clinical syndrome resulting from excess GH secretion in children prior to fusion of the epiphyses. […] growth velocity without premature pubertal manifestations should arouse suspicion of pituitary gigantism. […] Causes of acromegaly[:] *Pituitary adenoma (>99% of cases). Macroadenomas 60-80%, microadenomas 20-40%. […] The clinical features arise from the effects of excess GH/IGF-1, excess PRL in some (as there is co-secretion of PRL in a minority (30%) of tumours […] and the tumour mass. [Signs and symptoms:] * sweating -> 80% of patients. *Headaches […] *Tiredness and lethargy. *Joint pains. *Change in ring or shoe size. *Facial appearance. Coarse features […] enlarged nose […] prognathism […] interdental separation. […] Enlargement of hands and feet […] [Complications:] *Hypertension (40%). *Insulin resistance and impaired glucose tolerance (40%)/diabetes mellitus (20%). *Obstructive sleep apnea – due to soft tissue swelling […] Ischaemic heart disease and cerebrovascular disease.”

“Management of acromegaly[:] The management strategy depends on the individual patient and also on the tumour size. Lowering of GH is essential in all situations […] Transsphenoidal surgery […] is usually the first line for treatment in most centres. *Reported cure rates vary: 40-91% for microadenomas and 10-48% for macroadenomas, depending on surgical expertise. […] Using the definition of post-operative cure as mean GH <2.5 micrograms/L, the reported recurrence rate is low (6% at 5 years). Radiotherapy […] is usually reserved for patients following unsuccessful transsphenoidal surgery, only occasionally is it used as [primary] therapy. […] normalization of mean GH may take several years and, during this time, adjunctive medical treatment (usually with somatostatin analogues) is required. […] Radiotherapy can induce GH deficiency which may need GH therapy. […] Somatostatin analogues lead to suppresion of GH secretion in 20-60% of patients with acromegaly. […] some patients are partial responders, and although somatostatin analogues will lead to lowering of mean GH, they do not suppress to normal despite dose escalation. These drugs may be used as [primary] therapy where the tumour does not cause mass effects or in patients who have received surgery and/or radiotherapy who have elevated mean GH. […] Dopamine agonists […] lead to lowering of GH levels but, very rarely, lead to normalization of GH or IGF-1 (<30%). They may be helpful, particularly if there is coexistent secretion of PRL, and, in these cases, there may be significant tumour shrinkage. […] GH receptor antagonists [are] [i]ndicated for somatostatin non-responders.”

“Cushing’s syndrome is an illness resulting from excess cortisol secretion, which has a high mortality if left untreated. There are several causes of hypercortisolaemia which must be differentiated, and the commonest cause is iatrogenic (oral, inhaled, or topical steroids). […] ACTH-dependent Cushing’s must be differentiated from ACTH-independent disease (usually due to an adrenal adenoma, or, rarely, carcinoma […]). Once a diagnosis of ACTH-dependent disease has been established, it is important to differentiate between pituitary-dependent (Cushing’s disease) and ectopic secretion. […] [Cushing’s disease is rare;] annual incidence approximately 2/million. The vast majority of Cushing’s syndrome is due to a pituitary ACTH-secreting corticotroph microadenoma. […] The features of Cushing’s syndrome are progressive and may be present for several years prior to diagnosis. […] *Facial appearance – round plethoric complexion, acne and hirsutism, thinning of scalp hair. *Weight gain – truncal obesity, buffalo hump […] *Skin – thin and fragile […] easy bruising […] *Proximal muscle weakness. *Mood disturbance – labile, depression, insomnia, psychosis. *Menstrual disturbance. *Low libido and impotence. […] Associated features [include:] *Hypertension (>50%) due to mineralocorticoid effects of cortisol […] *Impaired glucose tolerance/diabetes mellitus (30%). *Osteopenia and osteoporosis […] *Vascular disease […] *Susceptibility to infections. […] Cushing’s is associated with a hypercoagulable state, with increased cardiovascular thrombotic risks. […] Hypercortisolism suppresses the thyroidal, gonadal, and GH axes, leading to lowered levels of TSH and thyroid hormones as well as reduced gonadotrophins, gonadal steroids, and GH.”

“Treatment of Cushing’s disease[:] Transsphenoidal surgery [is] the first-line option in most cases. […] Pituitary radiotherapy [is] usually administered as second-line treatment, following unsuccessful transsphenoidal surgery. […] Medical treatment [is] indicated during the preoperative preparation of patients or while awaiting radiotherapy to be effective or if surgery or radiotherapy are contraindicated. *Inhibitors of steroidogenesis: metyrapone is usually used first-line, but ketoconazole should be used as first-line in children […] Disadvantage of these agents inhibiting steroidogenesis is the need to increase the dose to maintain control, as ACTH secretion will increase as cortisol concentrations decrease. […] Successful treatment (surgery or radiotherapy) of Cushing’s disease leads to cortisol deficiency and, therefore, glucocorticoid replacement therapy is essential. […] *Untreated [Cushing’s] disease leads to an approximately 30-50% mortality at 5 years, owing to vascular disease and susceptibility to infections. *Treated Cushing’s syndrome has a good prognosis […] *Although the physical features and severe psychological disorders associated with Cushing’s improve or resolve within weeks or months of successful treatment, more subtle mood disturbance may persist for longer. Adults may also have impaired cognitive function. […] it is likely that there is an cardiovascular risk. *Osteoporosis will usually resolve in children but may not improve significantly in older patients. […] *Hypertension has been shown to resolve in 80% and diabetes mellitus in up to 70%. *Recent data suggests that mortality even with successful treatment of Cushing’s is increased significantly.”

“The term incidentaloma refers to an incidentally detected lesion that is unassociated with hormonal hyper- or hyposecretion and has a benign natural history. The increasingly frequent detection of these lesions with technological improvements and more widespread use of sophisticated imaging has led to a management challenge – which, if any, lesions need investigation and/or treatment, and what is the optimal follow-up strategy (if required at all)? […] *Imaging studies using MRI demonstrate pituitary microadenomas in approximately 10% of normal volunteers. […] Clinically significant pituitary tumours are present in about 1 in 1,000 patients. […] Incidentally detected microadenomas are very unlikely (<10%) to increase in size whereas larger incidentally detected meso- and macroadenomas are more likely (40-50%) to enlarge. Thus, conservative management in selected patients may be appropriate for microadenomas which are incidentally detected […]. Macroadenomas should be treated, if possible.”

“Non-functioning pituitary tumours […] are unassociated with clinical syndromes of anterior pituitary hormone excess. […] Non-functioning pituitary tumours (NFA) are the commonest pituitary macroadenoma. They represent around 28% of all pituitary tumours. […] 50% enlarge, if left untreated, at 5 years. […] Tumour behaviour is variable, with some tumours behaving in a very indolent, slow-growing manner and others invading the sphenoid and cavernous sinus. […] At diagnosis, approximately 50% of patients are gonadotrophin-deficient. […] The initial definitive management in virtually every case is surgical. This removes mass effects and may lead to some recovery of pituitary function in around 10%. […] The use of post-operative radiotherapy remains controversial. […] The regrowth rate at 10 years without radiotherapy approaches 45% […] administration of post-operative radiotherapy reduces this regrowth rate to <10%. […] however, there are sequelae to radiotherapy – with a significant long-term risk of hypopituitarism and a possible risk of visual deterioration and malignancy in the field of radiation. […] Unlike the case for GH- and PRL-secreting tumours, medical therapy for NFAs is usually unhelpful […] Gonadotrophinomas […] are tumours that arise from the gonadotroph cells of the pituitary gland and produce FSH, LH, or the α subunit. […] they are usually silent and unassociated with excess detectable secretion of LH and FSH […] [they] present in the same manner as other non-functioning pituitary tumours, with mass effects and hypopituitarism […] These tumours are managed as non-functioning tumours.”

“The posterior lobe of the pituitary gland arises from the forebrain and comprises up to 25% of the normal adult pituitary gland. It produces arginine vasopressin and oxytocin. […] Oxytoxin has no known role in ♂ […] In ♀, oxytoxin contracts the pregnant uterus and also causes breast duct smooth muscle contraction, leading to breast milk ejection during breastfeeding. […] However, oxytoxin deficiency has no known adverse effect on parturition or breastfeeding. […] Arginine vasopressin is the major determinant of renal water excretion and, therefore, fluid balance. It’s main action is to reduce free water clearance. […] Many substances modulate vasopressin secretion, including the catecholamines and opioids. *The main site of action of vasopressin is in the collecting duct and the thick ascending loop of Henle […] Diabetes Insipidus (DI) […] is defined as the passage of large volumes (>3L/24h) of dilute urine (osmolality <300mOsm/kg). [It may be] [d]ue to deficiency of circulating arginine vasopressin [or] [d]ue to renal resistance to vasopressin.” […lots of other causes as well – trauma, tumours, inflammation, infection, vascular, drugs, genetic conditions…]

Hyponatraemia […] Incidence *1-6% of hospital admissions Na<130mmol/L. *15-22% hospital admissions Na<135mmol/L. […] True clinically apparent hyponatraemia is associated with either excess water or salt deficiency. […] Features *Depend on the underlying cause and also on the rate of development of hyponatraemia. May develop once sodium reaches 115mmol/L or earlier if the fall is rapid. Level at 100mmol/L or less is life-threatening. *Features of excess water are mainly neurological because of brain injury […] They include confusion and headache, progressing to seizures and coma. […] SIADH [Syndrome of Inappropriate ADH, US] is a common cause of hyponatraemia. […] The elderly are more prone to SIADH, as they are unable to suppress ADH as efficiently […] ↑ risk of hyponatraemia with SSRIs. […] rapid overcorrection of hyponatraemia may cause central pontine myelinolysis (demyelination).”

“The hypothalamus releases hormones that act as releasing hormones at the anterior pituitary gland. […] The commonest syndrome to be associated with the hypothalamus is abnormal GnRH secretion, leading to reduced gonadotrophin secretion and hypogonadism. Common causes are stress, weight loss, and excessive exercise.”


January 14, 2018 - Posted by | Books, Cancer/oncology, Cardiology, Diabetes, Epidemiology, Medicine, Nephrology, Neurology, Ophthalmology, Pharmacology

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