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Alternative causes of hypopituitarism: traumatic brain injury, cranial irradiation, and infections.

Hypopituitarism often remains unrecognized due to subtle clinical manifestations. Anterior pituitary hormone deficiencies may present as isolated or multiple and may be transient or permanent. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is recognized as a risk factor for hypopituitarism, most frequently presenting with isolated growth hormone deficiency (GHD). Data analysis shows that about 15% of patients with TBI have some degree of hypopituitarism which if not recognized may be mistakenly ascribed to persistent neurologic injury and cognitive impairment. Identification of predictors for hypopituitarism after TBI is important, one of them being the severity of TBI. The mechanisms involve lesions in the hypothalamic-pituitary axis and inflammatory changes in the central nervous system (CNS). With time, hypopituitarism after TBI may progress or reverse. Cranial irradiation is another important risk factor for hypopituitarism. Deficiencies in anterior pituitary hormone secretion (partial or complete) occur following radiation damage to the hypothalamic-pituitary region, the severity and frequency of which correlate with the total radiation dose delivered to the region and the length of follow-up. These radiation-induced hormone deficiencies are irreversible and progressive. Despite numerous case reports, the incidence of hypothalamic-pituitary dysfunction following infectious diseases of the CNS has been underestimated. Hypopituitarism usually relates to the severity of the disease, type of causative agent (bacterial, TBC, fungal, or viral) and primary localization of the infection. Unrecognized hypopituitarism may be misdiagnosed as postencephalitic syndrome, while the presence of a sellar mass with suprasellar extension may be misdiagnosed as pituitary macroadenoma in a patient with pituitary abscess which is potentially a life-threatening disease.

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