Elderly people with hypothalamic-pituitary disease and untreated GH deficiency: clinical outcome, body composition, lipid profiles and quality of life after 2 years compared to controls

J S W Li Voon Chong, T Groves, P Foy, M E Wallymahmed, I A MacFarlane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

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OBJECTIVE: Elderly patients with GH deficiency (GHD) have significant impairments in multiple aspects of quality of life (QOL) but similar lipid profiles compared to age-matched control subjects. There are, however, no data on changes in these parameters with time. This study assessed the impact of untreated GHD over a period of 2 years in a group of elderly patients with hypothalamic-pituitary disease in relation to new illnesses and differences in body composition, circulating lipid profile levels and QOL. Control subjects were also followed for 2 years.

SUBJECTS: Twenty-seven elderly patients (> 65 years) with hypothalamic-pituitary disorders and GHD (mean peak stimulated GH response 1.6 mIU/l, range 0.6--5.0) were studied initially. Two years later 21 (13 males) agreed to attend for reassessment. Mean age was then 72.7 +/- 5.04 years (range 67--85). Eighteen patients had pituitary tumours, three had craniopharyngiomas. Twenty-seven control subjects were studied at baseline and 17 (7 males) agreed to attend for reassessment. Mean age was then 75.9 +/- 6.97 years (range 67--88).

METHODS: Weight, body mass index (BMI), total fat mass (FM) (bioelectrical impedance), serum IGF-1 and fasting lipid profile (total cholesterol, triglyceride, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol) were measured. QOL was assessed in both groups using five interviewer-administered self-rating questionnaires: the Nottingham Health Profile, Short Form-36, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, Mental Fatigue Questionnaire and Life Fulfillment Scale. The GHD group also completed the Disease Impact Scale.

RESULTS: Two of the 27 patients with GHD died during the 2-year follow-up (myocardial infarction and probable cerebrovascular accident). Four controls could not be traced but there were no deaths in the other 23. In the 21 GHD patients after 2 years, mean serum IGF-1 and BMI were unchanged (12.6 +/- 5.8 vs. 13.3 +/- 5.1 nmol/l, P = 0.5 and 28.3 +/- 4.3 vs. 29.1 +/- 4.2, P = 0.5, respectively) at the 2-year follow-up and there were no significant changes in the lipid profiles. However, there was a significant reduction in fat mass (31.7 +/- 11.2 vs. 28.5 +/- 10.9%, P = 0.04). In the 17 control subjects after 2 years, serum IGF-1 levels (17.2 +/- 4.0 vs. 15.7 +/- 5.6 nmol/l, P = 0.4), BMI and fat mass were unchanged. However, there was a significant fall in total cholesterol levels over the 2-year follow-up (6.3 +/- 0.9 vs. 5.7 +/- 0.9 mmol/l, P < 0.0001), although LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and HDL cholesterol were unchanged. Analysing the QOL data, the GHD patients had less energy (P < 0.05), more depression (P < 0.05), more pain (P < 0.05) and lower life fulfillment scores (P < 0.01) after 2 years. However, the control subjects also had less energy (P < 0.05), less vitality (P < 0.05) and lower self-esteem (P < 0.05), more depression (P < 0.05), worse mental health (P < 0.05), life fulfillment personal (P < 0.01), life fulfillment material (P < 0.02), physical functioning and role physical functioning (P < 0.05) after 2 years. Comparing the patients and controls at baseline, there were significant differences in IGF-1, BMI, FM, LDL cholesterol, personal life fulfillment, mental fatigue, general health and mental health. However, after 2 years, only BMI and depression scores were significantly different.

CONCLUSION: These patients with untreated GHD did not have deterioration of body composition or lipid profiles when reassessed after a period of 2 years. In fact, fat mass fell. The control subjects did have a significant decrease in total cholesterol but no change in other lipids or body composition. Some quality of life domains did deteriorate in the patients with GHD. However, the control subjects also had worse quality of life scores after 2 years which were then little different from the GHD patients. These results raise doubts about the benefits of GH replacement in elderly people with GHD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-81
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Endocrinology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2002


  • Adenoma/blood
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Body Composition
  • Body Mass Index
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Craniopharyngioma/blood
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Growth Hormone/blood
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I/metabolism
  • Lipids/blood
  • Male
  • Pituitary Neoplasms/blood
  • Quality of Life


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