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Recent Studies Reveal Pituitary Abnormalities among Returning Veterans

June 21, 2016

Pituitary dysfunction is a common complication of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that has been studied with increasing regularity among civilians, but medical scientists are only now beginning to investigate this phenomenon in earnest among our military veterans who have suffered TBIs in the course of service.

The pituitary gland is considered the “master” gland in that it serves as the wellspring of all other gland function in the body — meaning that pituitary dysfunction can lead to a wide variety of medical conditions affecting all related glands. These can include:

  • Adrenal Insufficiency
  • Diabetes Insipidus
  • Hyponatremia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Hypogonadism
  • Growth Hormone Deficiency
  • Hyperprolactinemia
  • Post-Traumatic Hypopituitarism

All of the above maladies can have severe negative effects on the individual, including depression, fatigue, abnormal sleep patterns, and a decreased quality of life, among many other symptoms.

The Latest Research

Two recent and separate studies performed on a collection of military veterans, each of whom had suffered a blast-related concussion during their service, have revealed information that links these injuries with significant pituitary abnormalities and deficiencies.

Researchers conducted the first of these studies at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, studying the brain MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging scans) of 834 veterans who had suffered concussions (also called a mild traumatic brain injury or mTBI) as a result of blast injuries. In addition to 52% of these scans showing significant brain scarring — which was a much higher number than anticipated — the images also showed evidence of pituitary abnormalities in one-third of the participants.

The second study was carried out by researchers at the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle. Despite using a much smaller sample size (41 male veterans) than their peers at Walter Reed, they discovered similar findings as the previous study: 44% of those who had suffered an mTBI were diagnosed with hormone deficiencies related to pituitary dysfunction, including growth hormone deficiencies, secondary adrenal deficiencies, and hypogonadism.

Differentiation and Treatment

This recent research highlights the critical distinction between pituitary dysfunction and post-traumatic stress syndrome. While the two conditions can share many symptoms, their respective treatments are vastly different. Therefore, an inaccurate diagnosis of one or the other can cause additional harm according to Charles Wilkinson, PhD, one of the lead researchers in the VA Puget Sound study.

“Some of these hormone deficiencies, which mimic some symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, may be treated successfully with hormone replacement if correctly diagnosed,” Wilkinson writes.

Additionally, the new and increased focus on diagnostic imaging helps add an objective element to a condition that has traditionally been diagnosed through an assessment of subjective symptoms.

A diagnosis from an objective method like MRI, says lead researcher of the Walter Reed study Dr. Gerald Riedy, would greatly enhance the possibility of treating veterans with the correct treatment paradigms.

“The TBI [traumatic brain injury] treatments and PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] treatment paradigms can be vastly different,” Riedy says. “So in my book an accurate diagnosis is key to any hope at meaningful recovery.”

Unfortunately, the cost of MRI testing for all veterans who have suffered mTBI would be substantial, but this latest research is a step in the right direction toward identifying pituitary dysfunction, differentiating between conditions with similar symptomology, and coordinating proper and effective treatment.

The Law Offices of William D. Cook

If you have suffered a TBI and are struggling with pituitary dysfunction, post-traumatic stress syndrome, or any other related condition, please contact the Law Offices of William D. Cook to seek financial restitution for your initial and ongoing pain and suffering. Call today at (800) 757-7757 or complete this form to schedule a free consultation in which we can discuss the circumstances surrounding your injuries, as well as the legal implications of your medical condition.

Our contingent fee structure ensures that you do not pay a dime in fees or expenses unless or until we have achieved optimal recovery on your behalf. However, statutes of limitations do apply, so please contact us today.

References:

Cox, Amber. (2016, April 3). Pituitary hormone deficiencies found in veterans with mild traumatic brain injury. Healio. Retrieved from http://www.healio.com/endocrinology/neuroendocrinology/news/online/%7B1d5c086c-730d-491f-91a2-43278e14568b%7D/pituitary-hormone-deficiencies-found-in-veterans-with-mild-traumatic-brain-injury

Over half of troops who suffered blast concussions have brain scarring – study. (2015, December 16). RT. Retrieved from https://www.rt.com/usa/326059-mbti-brain-scarring-military/

Pituitary insufficiency is prevalent after blast concussion in military veterans. (2016, April 4). MedicalXpress. Retrieved from http://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-04-pituitary-insufficiency-prevalent-blast-concussion.html

Wang, D. (2015, December 19). Military traumatic brain injury associated with white matter abnormalities. 2minutemedicine. Retrieved from http://www.2minutemedicine.com/military-traumatic-brain-injury-associated-with-white-matter-abnormalities-on-mri/

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