Updated: Apr 21, 2022
  • Author: Robert P Hoffman, MD; Chief Editor: Sasigarn A Bowden, MD, FAAP  more...
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Practice Essentials

The pituitary gland is called the master endocrine gland of the body because it controls the function of other endocrine organs. The anterior pituitary produces the hormones thyrotropin (thyroid-stimulating hormone [TSH]), corticotropin (adrenocorticotropic hormone [ACTH]), luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), growth hormone (GH), and prolactin (PRL). The anterior pituitary is controlled by specific hypothalamic-releasing hormones. The posterior pituitary produces vasopressin (antidiuretic hormone [ADH]) and oxytocin.

Panhypopituitarism is a condition of inadequate or absent production of the anterior pituitary hormones. It is frequently the result of other problems that affect the pituitary gland and either reduce or destroy its function or interfere with hypothalamic secretion of the varying pituitary-releasing hormones. Panhypopituitarism can be the end result of various clinical scenarios. The signs and symptoms are diverse. Manifestations that suggest congenital anterior hypopituitarism include micropenis, midline defects, optic atrophy, hypoglycemia, and poor growth. [1, 2, 3]

See the image below.

Pathophysiology of panhypopituitarism. Pathophysiology of panhypopituitarism.

Diagnosis and management

The diagnostic evaluation of a child with hypopituitarism is divided into 2 portions: recognition of the hormonal deficiencies and determination of the cause. Genetic testing is available at various commercial and academic laboratories for mutations associated with hypopituitarism.

Cortisol deficiency requires prompt recognition and treatment. This is particularly true for the child who may be facing surgery or experiencing other significant stresses related to the cause of hypopituitarism.

In TSH deficiency, the dose of L-thyroxine replacement is age dependent. In cases of gonadotropin deficiency, sex steroid replacement should begin at puberty, while in GH deficiency, GH replacement doses should be administered in doses of 0.18-0.3 mg/kg/wk subcutaneously, divided in 6-7 doses. Higher doses of up to 0.7 mg/kg/wk may be beneficial in puberty.

Surgical treatment should be used for operable pituitary and hypothalamic tumors.



The effects of hypopituitarism in children depend on the affected hormones. GH deficiency can result in hypoglycemia and short stature. Gonadotropin deficiency leads to prenatal micropenis and delayed or interrupted puberty in older children. Corticotropin deficiency interferes with normal carbohydrate, protein, and lipid metabolism and may result in weight loss, hypoglycemia, fatigue, hypotension, and death. Thyrotropin deficiency leads to hypothyroidism.



US frequency

Hypopituitarism is caused by various conditions and is associated with various hormonal deficiencies. Thus, data are limited regarding frequency rates of the various etiologies and components. An Italian study reported GH deficiency prevalence to be approximately 9 cases per 1000 individuals in a pediatric population. [4] Data from the Northwest Regional Screening program estimate the frequency of congenital TSH deficiency at 1 case per 29,000 live births. [5]



A study by Kao et al indicated that adults with childhood-onset multiple pituitary hormone deficiencies (COMPHD) have a significantly worse quality of life than do healthy adults. Compared with healthy controls, adults with COMPHD were shorter and more overweight, had less education, were less likely to be married, and had a higher unemployment rate, lower incomes, and fewer children. They also scored lower on the Female Sexual Function Index and Male Sexual Quotient. [6]