Objectives To review the hormonal changes that have been reported after trauma, to define their etiologies, and to describe their consequences.
Data Sources Literature review using MEDLINE and original data.
Data Synthesis Hormonal responses to trauma are bidirectional. Functional derangements include increases in adrenocorticotropin hormone and cortisol, growth hormone, and prolactin levels. In contrast, gonadotropin and gonadal steroid, and thyroid hormone concentrations decrease. The response is immediate but not necessarily sustained for those hormones that respond with increased secretion, whereas the effect may not become apparent for several hours, may be maximal after 1 to 4 days, and may persist for the duration of illness for those hormones that decrease. The reduction in hormone concentrations generally reflect diminished secretion, with the exception of the thyroid hormones where altered metabolic pathways and enhanced metabolic clearance play a major role.
Conclusions The changes in circulating levels do not appear to be injury specific, but tend to reflect the severity of the traumatic insult, and there are some data for cortisol and thyroxine that show their concentrations may be of predictive value. In head-injured patients, structural as well as functional pituitary changes may be present. Patients may show varying degrees of pituitary insufficiency. However, the presence of hyperprolactinemia strongly suggests involvement of the hypothalamus. With the exception of bonafide hypopituitarism, the relevance of the hormonal changes after trauma awaits clarification.
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