02 December 2008
Fifty-seven children with growth hormone deficiency and 15 healthy age-matched controls were studied by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Of the patients, 36 (63%) had isolated GH deficiency (IGHD) and 21 (37%) multiple pituitary hormone deficiency (MPHD). MRI studies showed a marked reduction in pituitary volume in all patients in comparison with normal controls. Moreover, a striking morphological abnormality with the apparent absence of the pituitary stalk and an ectopic posterior pituitary lobe was detected in 34 of the patients (59%). This pituitary stalk abnormality was detected in 95% of the MPHD patients and in 39% of the IGHD patients. All but one of the patients with a normal pituitary stalk had IGHD. Endocrine evaluation showed no correlation with MRI data: in particular patients with an apparent anatomical interruption of the hypothalamic-pituitary axis showed a variety of patterns of hormonal responses. In conclusion, our study shows a high frequency of hypothalamic-pituitary anomalies in patients with GH deficiency, particularly related with MPHD. However, further studies are needed to improve our understanding of the relationship between MRI and endocrine data.