Hypothalamic dysfunction following whole-brain irradiation

J. I. Mechanick, F. H. Hochberg, A. LaRocque

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38 Scopus citations


The authors describe 15 cases with evidence of hypothalamic dysfunction 2 to 9 years following megavoltage whole-brain x-irradiation for primary glial neoplasm. The patients received 4000 to 5000 rads in 180- to 200- rad fractions. Dysfunction occurred in the absence of computerized tomography-delineated radiation necrosis or hypothalamic invasion by tumor, and antedated the onset of dementia. Fourteen patients displayed symptoms reflecting disturbances of personality, libido, thirst, appetite, or sleep. Hyperporlactinemia (with prolactin levels up to 70 ng/ml) was present in all of the nine patients so tested. Of seven patients tested with thyrotropin-releasing hormone, one demonstrated an abnormal pituitary gland response consistent with a hypothalamic disorder. Seven patients developed cognitive abnormalities. Computerized tomography scans performed a median of 4 years after tumor diagnosis revealed no hypothalamic tumor or diminished density of the hypothalamus. Cortical atrophy was present in 50% of cases and third ventricular dilatation in 58%. Hypothalamic dysfunction, heralded by endocrine, behavioral, and cognitive impairment, represents a common, subtle form of radiation damage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)490-494
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1986
Externally publishedYes


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