IMPAIRED HYPOTHALAMUS-PITUITARY-ADRENAL AXIS IN MEN WITH SPINAL CORD INJURIES


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Abstract

Huang T-S, Wang Y-H, Lee S-H, Lai J-S: Impaired hypothalamus-pitutary-adrenal axis in men with spinal cord injuries. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 1998; 77:108–112Twenty-five men with spinal cord injuries were studied for evaluation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis, using corticotropin-releasing hormone and insulin-induced hypoglycemia. Twenty-five age-matched healthy male volunteers served as controls. Three spinal cord-injured subjects had hyperprolactinemia, three had elevated basal follicle-stimulating hormone levels, one had an elevated basal luteinizing hormone level, and four had hypotestosteronemia. The mean plasma adrenocorticotropin response to corticotropin-releasing hormone of spinal cordinjured subjects was smaller than that of the healthy controls but did not reach a statistical significance. The cortisol response to corticotropin-releasing hormone of the spinal cord-injured subjects was significantly lower than that of healthy controls. However, the difference disappeared if a correction was made for baseline values. Six spinal cord-injured subjects did not have a cortisol response to insulin-induced hypoglycemia, and they had either a minimal or no adrenocorticotropin response. Another 11 spinal cord-injured subjects had a maximal cortisol response to insulin-induced hypoglycemia below the lowest limit of normal, i.e., 0.5 μmol/1. Among these spinal cord-injured subjects, three had a less than 50% increase of plasma adrenocorticotropin after insulin-induced hypoglycemia. These findings are consistent with the notion that spinal cord-injured subjects have an altered central neurotransmitter tone and substantiate the hypothesis that an afferent neural pathway exists between the adrenal and hypothalamus and may modulate stressinduced secretion of adrenocorticotropin. Long-term abnormal adrenocorticotropin secretion may cause mild adrenocortical atrophy and, thereby, a reduced cortisol response.

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