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Pituitary hyperplasia: a complication of the pseudomalabsorption of thyroxine

Authors Doyle M, Lochnan HA

Received 31 January 2013

Accepted for publication 25 February 2013

Published 29 April 2013 Volume 2013:6 Pages 335—339

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/IJGM.S43494

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2


Mary-Anne Doyle, Heather A Lochnan

Division of Endocrinology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada

Objective: “The pseudomalabsorption of thyroxine” has been used to describe patients with hypothyroidism who fail to comply with their treatment. We describe a unique case of a 32-year-old with hypothyroidism who developed pituitary hyperplasia and hyperprolactinemia secondary to the pseudomalabsorption of thyroxine.
Investigations and treatment: After baseline thyroid-function tests were performed, the patient was administered levothyroxine 0.5 mg under the supervision of a registered nurse. Thyroid function testing was repeated at 30, 60, 120, and 180 minutes. Arrangements were made for further daily supervised loading of levothyroxine 0.1 mg.
Results: With the administration of 0.5 mg levothyroxine, free thyroxine levels increased by 120 minutes, and with daily supervised dosing of 0.1 mg there was normalization of the thyroid hormone levels and a reduction of thyroid-stimulating hormone levels. Maintenance of thyroid-stimulating hormone < 15 mU/L for 2 weeks led to a reduction in prolactin levels and regression in the size of the pituitary on magnetic resonance imaging.
Conclusion: If left untreated, these patients face significant morbidity and are at risk of developing pituitary hyperplasia, complications from an increase in pituitary size, hyperprolactinemia, and potentially myxedema coma. Recognizing pituitary hyperplasia and hyperprolactinemia as a complication from the pseudomalabsorption of levothyroxine may prevent the potential of a misdiagnosis of a prolactinoma leading to unnecessary investigations and inappropriate treatment. Patient awareness of this serious complication and the rapid, demonstrable resolution with adequate thyroid hormone replacement may provide motivation to comply with supervised dosing of levothyroxine. It has also been suggested that supervised treatment enables the individual to maintain their patient status, which may be in part the motivation behind this disorder.

Keywords: hypothyroidism, pituitary hyperplasia, hyperprolactinemia, pseudomalabsorption

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