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Visceral fat measurement by ultrasound as a non-invasive method - can it be useful in evaluating subclinical atherosclerosis in male patients with hypopituitarism and growth hormone deficiency?

INTRODUCTION: Growth hormone (GH) deficiency, either isolated or combined with other pituitary hormone deficiencies, is associated with increased mortality and abnormal body composition, particularly visceral adiposity. We aimed to investigate the effects of GH deficiency with or without sex steroid deficiencies on ultrasonographic visceral fat (VF) and cardiovascular risk markers in patients with hypopituitarism on conventional hormone replacement therapy.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: Forty hypopituitarism patients (24 women, 16 men; mean age 48 ± 16.1 years) with GH deficiency and 15 age- and sex-matched healthy controls were included in this cross-sectional study. The patients were stable on conventional hormone replacement but they were not on GH therapy. Patients who had sex steroid replacement were classified as Group 1 (n = 19), and patients who did not use sex steroids were classified as Group 2 (n = 21). Anthropometric measurements were performed. VF in three regions, subcutaneous fat, and carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT) were measured. VF volume was calculated by using a formula.

RESULTS: Visceral fat volume and mean CIMT were significantly higher in patients than healthy controls (p = 0.001 and 0.019 respectively). Homocysteine and hs-CRP were higher in patients (p < 0.05). In males, VF volume and VF thickness measured between abdominal muscle and splenic vein were significantly correlated with CIMT (r = 0.54, p = 0.047 and r = 0.66, p = 0.010 respectively). Furthermore, there was a strong positive correlation between VF thickness in pararenal region and homocysteine (r = 0.74, p = 0.001) in males.

CONCLUSIONS: VF volume evaluated by ultrasound can be accepted as a cause of subclinical atherosclerosis in GH deficient hypopituitary patients, particularly males.

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