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The frequency and the diagnosis of pituitary dysfunction after traumatic brain injury

  • Nigel Glynn
  • Amar AghaEmail author



Clinical research studies over the last 15 years have reported a significant burden of hypopituitarism in survivors of traumatic brain injury (TBI). However, debate still exists about the true prevalence of hypopituitarism after head injury.


We have reviewed the literature describing the frequency of post-traumatic hypopituitarism and discuss the factors which may explain the variable frequency of the reported deficits in clinical studies including research methodology and the natural history of the disease.


Pituitary hormone perturbations in the acute phase following injury are frequent but are difficult to attribute to traumatic pituitary damage due to physiological hormonal changes in acute illness, the confounding effect of medications, other co-morbidities and lack of appropriate control subjects. Nevertheless, a small number of studies have emphasised the clinical importance of acute, dynamic disturbance of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis. There is a much larger evidence base examining the frequency of hypopituitarism in the chronic, recovery phase following head injury. These studies report a very broad prevalence of long-term pituitary hormone dysfunction in survivors of TBI. However, systematic review suggests the prevalence to be between 27 and 31%.


Survivors of head injury are at risk of pituitary hormone dysfunction and we suggest an approach to the diagnosis of post-traumatic hypopituitarism in routine clinical practice.


Hypopituitarism Traumatic brain injury Post-traumatic hypopituitarism 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors report no conflict of interests.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EndocrinologySaint Bartholomew’s HospitalLondonUK
  2. 2.Academic Department of EndocrinologyBeaumont Hospital and the RCSI Medical SchoolDublin 9Ireland

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