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      An Evaluation of the Thyrotrophin-Releasing Hormone Stimulation Test in Paediatric Clinical Practice

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          Aim: The aim of this retrospective study was to evaluate the clinical usefulness of the thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) test in children with suspected hypothalamic or pituitary dysfunction. Methods: We reviewed the case notes of all patients in whom a TRH test had been performed over a 6-year period. Group 1 (n = 85, 34 males, aged 0.9–18.8 years) was the reference group with no evidence of hypothalamic, pituitary or thyroid dysfunction. Group 2 (n = 42, 24 males, 0.1–18.0 years) were being investigated for possible pituitary or hypothalamic insufficiency. Results: In Group 1, thyrotropin (TSH) responses were higher in females than males (p < 0.01). In Group 2, TSH responses were normal for gender in 26 patients, subnormal in 5, and exaggerated/delayed in 11. Four patients with normal TSH responses and 4 with exaggerated/delayed responses had persistently low free thyroxine (FT<sub>4</sub>) or later developed low FT<sub>4</sub> and were treated with thyroxine. All those with subnormal TSH responses had normal FT<sub>4</sub> and were not treated. The TRH test did not reliably discriminate between hypothalamic and pituitary disorders. Conclusions: The TRH test did not give useful clinical information. Clinical decisions regarding thyroxine treatment were based on FT<sub>4</sub>, not the TRH test. The TRH test should be abandoned in paediatric practice.

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          A population-based study of thyroid function after radiotherapy and chemotherapy for a childhood brain tumor.

          The effect of craniospinal irradiation (CSI) vs. cranial irradiation (CIR) only with or without chemotherapy (CT) on the hypothalamus/pituitary (HP) thyroid axis was assessed in a population-based study of patients treated for a childhood brain tumor not directly involving the HP axis. Thyroid function was evaluated and compared with that in healthy controls (n = 27), measuring TSH, free T4, total T4, total T3, and TRH. The biological effective dose (BED) of radiotherapy, determined for the HP region and spine and expressed in grays (Gy) as BED, gives a means of expressing the biological effects of different dosage schedules in a uniform way. Seventy-one children (45 males and 26 females), less than 15 yr of age when diagnosed between 1970-1997 in the eastern part of Denmark, were included. Twenty-nine had received CSI, and 42 had received CIR only. The median age at time of radiotherapy was 8.4 yr (range, 0.8-14.9). The median length of follow-up was 12.0 yr (range, 2.0-28.0). There was no significant difference between CSI and the CIR only patients with respect to median BED to the HP region. Primary hypothyroidism was found in 24%, of whom 71% had been treated with CSI and 29% with CIR only; 73% had compensated hypothyroidism, and 27% had overt primary hypothyroidism. Central hypothyroidism was found in 6%. Free T4 and total T3 were significantly lower in the CSI and CIR only groups compared with controls. As the CIR only group had significantly higher median basal TSH levels compared with controls and as the CSI compared with the CIR only group and controls had significantly higher median basal TSH levels, we speculate that this was probably due to scattered irradiation from both cranial and spinal fields to the thyroid gland. There was a significant relation between basal TSH and time of follow-up (r(s) = -0.39; P = 0.001). Stepwise backward multiple linear regression analysis showed that the best-fit model to predict basal TSH was free T4 (P < 0.0001), the length of follow-up (P = 0.02), and total T3 (P = 0.06). In contrast, age at radiotherapy, BED to the HP region and spine, and whether the patient had been treated with CT were not included in the model. The TRH test showed significantly exaggerated and prolonged TSH responses for the CSI and CIR only groups compared with controls, indicating HP dysfunction. In conclusion, these data suggest that both CSI and CIR for childhood brain tumor may affect the HP-thyroid axis, resulting in hypothyroidism. CT had no significant influence on HP-thyroid function. We recommend prolonged surveillance of pituitary-thyroid function in long-term survivors of childhood brain tumor and institution of thyroid hormone replacement if the levels of TSH and free T4 are above and below the normal range, respectively, to ensure normal growth and metabolism.
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            Is the thyrotropin-releasing hormone test necessary in the diagnosis of central hypothyroidism in children.

            To determine the value of the TRH test, we analyzed the unstimulated serum T(4) and TSH concentrations in 54 children with central hypothyroidism. A TRH test was performed in 30 patients. Midline brain defects (septo-optic dysplasia, 28; holoprosencephaly, 2) and combined pituitary hormone deficiencies were present in 30 and 52 patients, respectively. The mean serum free T(4), total T(4), and basal TSH concentrations were 0.6 ng/dl, 4.0 microg/dl, and 2.8 microU/ml, respectively. Five patients demonstrated elevated basal serum TSH concentrations. A normal TRH test [increase (delta) in TSH, 4.5-17.8], based on data from 30 controls, was documented in 23.3% of patients. Brisk (deltaTSH, >17.8), absent/blunted (deltaTSH, <4.5), and delayed responses were documented in 16.7%, 30%, and 30% of patients, respectively. The mean age at diagnosis was 2.8 yr, with 8 patients evolving into TSH deficiency. It was not possible to differentiate patients as having pituitary or hypothalamic disease based solely on the TRH test results. Patients with septo-optic dysplasia were diagnosed earlier and had elevated basal serum TSH and PRL concentrations, diabetes insipidus, and evolving disease. Although full pituitary function assessment is mandatory to identify combined pituitary hormone deficiencies, a TRH test is not essential, and the diagnosis should be made by serial T(4) measurements.
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              Hypopituitarism as a consequence of brain tumours and radiotherapy.

              Radiation-induced damage to the hypothalamic-pituitary (h-p) axis is associated with a wide spectrum of subtle and frank abnormalities in anterior pituitary hormones secretion. The frequency, rapidity of onset and the severity of these abnormalities correlate with the total radiation dose delivered to the h-p axis, as well as the fraction size, younger age at irradiation, prior pituitary compromise by tumour and/or surgery and the length of follow up. Whilst, the hypothalamus is the primary site of radiation-induced damage, secondary pituitary atrophy evolves with time due to impaired secretion of hypothalamic trophic factors and/or time-dependent direct radiation-induced damage. Selective radiosensitivity in the neuroendocrine axes with the GH axis being the most vulnerable to radiation damage accounts for the high frequency of GH deficiency, which usually occurs in isolation following irradiation of the h-p axis with doses less than 30 Gy. With higher radiation doses (30-50 Gy), however, the frequency of GH insufficiency substantially increases and can be as high as 50-100%, and TSH and ACTH deficiency start to occur with a long-term cumulative frequency of 3-6%. Abnormalities in gonadotrophin secretion are dose-dependent; precocious puberty can occur after radiation dose less than 30 Gy in girls only, and in both sexes equally with a radiation dose of 30-50 Gy. Gonadotrophin deficiency occurs infrequently and is usually a long-term complication following a minimum radiation dose of 30 Gy. Hyperprolactinemia, due to hypothalamic damage leading to reduced dopamine release, has been described in both sexes and all ages but is mostly seen in young women after intensive irradiation and is usually subclinical. A much higher incidence of gonadotrophin, ACTH and TSH deficiencies (30-60% after 10 years) occur after more intensive irradiation (>70 Gy) used for nasopharyngeal carcinomas and tumours of the skull base and following conventional irradiation (30-50 Gy) for pituitary tumours. Radiation-induced anterior pituitary hormone deficiencies are irreversible and progressive. Regular testing is mandatory to ensure timely diagnosis and early hormone replacement therapy to improve linear growth and prevent short stature in children cured from cancer, and in adults preserve sexual function, prevent ill health and osteoporosis and improve the quality of life.

                Author and article information

                Horm Res Paediatr
                Hormone Research in Paediatrics
                S. Karger AG
                December 2007
                04 December 2007
                : 69
                : 1
                : 53-59
                Departments of aPaediatric Biochemistry, and bEndocrinology, Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh, UK
                111796 Horm Res 2008;69:53–59
                © 2007 S. Karger AG, Basel

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                Page count
                Tables: 2, References: 32, Pages: 7
                Original Paper


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