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Posterior pituitary dysfunction following traumatic brain injury: review

  • Roxana Maria TudorEmail author
  • Christopher J. Thompson


Neurohypophysial dysfunction is common in the first days following traumatic brain injury (TBI), manifesting as dysnatremia in approximately 1 in 4 patients. Both hyponatremia and hypernatremia can impair recovery from TBI and in the case of hypernatremia, there is a significant association with excess mortality. Hyponatremia secondary to syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion (SIAD) is the commonest electrolyte disturbance following TBI. Acute adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)/cortisol deficiency occurs in 10–15% of TBI patients and can present with a biochemical picture identical to SIAD. For this reason, exclusion of glucocorticoid deficiency is of particular importance in post-TBI SIAD. Cerebral salt wasting is a rare cause of hyponatremia following TBI. Hyponatremia predisposes to seizures, reduced consciousness, and prolonged hospital stay. Diabetes insipidus (DI) occurs in 20% of cases following TBI; where diminished consciousness is present, appropriate fluid replacement of renal water losses is occasionally inadequate, leading to hypernatremia. Hypernatremia is strongly predictive of mortality following TBI. Most cases of DI are transient, but persistent DI is also predictive of mortality, irrespective of plasma sodium concentration. Persistent DI may herald rising intracranial pressure due to coning. True adipsic DI is rare following TBI, but patients are vulnerable to severe hypernatremic dehydration, exacerbation of neurologic deficits and hypothalamic complications, therefore clinicians should be aware of this possible variant of DI.


Traumatic brain injury (TBI) Posterior pituitary dysfunction Hyponatremia Syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion (SIAD/SIADH) Diabetes insipidus (DI) Adipsic diabetes insipidus 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Research involving human participants and/or animals

This paper does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Academic Department of EndocrinologyBeaumont Hospital/RCSI Medical SchoolDublinIreland

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