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Evaluation of pituitary function in the fatigued patient: a review of 59 cases

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to review the results of dynamic pituitary testing in patients presenting with fatigue. METHODS: We reviewed clinical histories and insulin tolerance test (ITT) results of 59 patients who presented with fatigue and other symptoms of glucocorticoid insufficiency over a 4-year period. All patients referred for ITT had an early-morning cortisol level of <400 nM and a low or normal ACTH level. RESULTS: Peak cortisol and GH responses following insulin-induced hypoglycaemia were normal in only seven patients (12%). Median age of the remaining 52 patients was 47 years (range, 17-67 years); all but five were female. Common presenting symptoms were neuroglycopaenia (n = 47), depression (n = 37), arthralgia and myalgia (n = 28), weight gain (n = 25), weight loss (n = 9), postural dizziness (n = 15) and headaches (n = 13). Other medical history included autoimmune disease (n = 20; particularly Hashimoto's thyroiditis, Graves' disease and coeliac disease), postpartum (n = 8) and gastrointestinal (n = 2) haemorrhage and hyperprolactinaemia (n = 13). 31 subjects had peak cortisol levels of <500 nM (suggestive of ACTH deficiency; 18 of whom had levels < 400 nM) and a further six had indeterminate results (500-550 nM). The remaining 15 subjects had normal cortisol responses (median 654 nM; range, 553-1062 nM) but had low GH levels following hypoglycaemic stimulation (5.9 mU/l; 3-11.6 mU/l). CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that patients presenting with fatigue and symptoms suggestive of hypocortisolism should be considered for screening for secondary adrenal insufficiency, particularly in the presence of autoimmune disease or a history of postpartum or gastrointestinal haemorrhage. Whether physiological glucocorticoid replacement improves symptoms in this patient group is yet to be established.

Type Journal
ISBN 0804-4643 (Print)
Authors Greenfield, J. R.;Samaras, K. :
Garvan Authors A/Prof Jerry Greenfield , Prof Katherine Samaras
Publisher Name EUR J ENDOCRINOL
Published Date 2006-01-01 00:00:00
Published Volume 154
Published Issue 1
Published Pages 147-57
URL http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&dopt=Citation&list_uids=16382004
Status Published In-print