Hypothalamic-Pituitary Axis in Non-Functioning Pituitary Adenomas: Focus on the Prevalence of Isolated Central Hypoadrenalism

Giulia Carosi, Elena Malchiodi, Emanuele Ferrante, Elisa Sala, Elisa Verrua, Eriselda Profka, Claudia Giavoli, Marcello Filopanti, Paolo Beck-Peccoz, Anna Spada, Giovanna Mantovani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Non-functioning pituitary adenomas (NFPA) account for about 40% of pituitary tumors. Pituitary deficiencies are present at diagnosis in 60-80% of NFPA, and, classically, growth hormone (GH) secretion is lost first, while adrenocorticotropic hormone is expected to disappear last. The aim of this study was to evaluate the incidence of multiple or isolated pituitary deficiencies in a large series of NFPA. Materials and Methods: We retrospectively analyzed data on 218 NFPA cases (59% females, 59% with macroadenomas, average age: 50.2 ± 17 years) followed up at our center from 1990 to 2013. At diagnosis all patients had a complete evaluation of pituitary function in basal conditions and provocative tests for the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, while tests for GH deficiency (GHD) were carried out in 38%. Results: 52.3% of patients (65.6% of macroadenomas, 33.3% of microadenomas) presented at least 1 pituitary deficiency: isolated deficiency in 29.8%, multiple deficiencies in 30% and panhypopituitarism in 9%. Isolated deficiencies were hypogonadism in 11.5% of patients (8% in micro-, 14% in macroadenomas), hypoadrenalism in 10.1% (14% in micro-, 7% in macroadenomas) and GHD in 8.3% (8.9% in micro-, 7.8% in macroadenomas). About 30% of microadenomas had at least 1 pituitary deficiency at diagnosis, independently of tumor localization within the sellar region. Conclusions: The presence of isolated hypoadrenalism suggests that the order of appearance of hypopituitarism does not always follow the one expected. Given the relatively high prevalence of isolated hypoadrenalism even in microadenomas, we suggest a full assessment of basal and dynamic pituitary function in all NFPA regardless of tumor size.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-273
Number of pages7
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2015


  • Hypoadrenalism
  • Hypopituitarism
  • Non-functioning pituitary adenoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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