The imaging of immunotherapy-related hypophysitis and other pituitary lesions in oncology patients

A. Lasocki, A. Iravani, A. Galligan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Immunotherapy has revolutionised the treatment of metastatic disease from a variety of different primaries, but is frequently associated with immune-related adverse events. This review illustrates the imaging features of immunotherapy-related hypophysitis (IH) and some of the important differential diagnoses in oncology patients. The key radiological characteristic of IH is diffuse, modest enlargement of the pituitary gland with temporal evolution attributable to immunotherapy. Pituitary enlargement is transient, and the gland size returns to baseline size or smaller within months. IH is usually associated with homogeneous enhancement of the pituitary gland, and the pituitary stalk may be thickened. Larger pituitary size, deviation of the pituitary stalk, the presence of a discrete lesion surrounding by normal pituitary tissue, sellar expansion, and clival invasion are not typical of IH and suggest alternate diagnoses. On integrated 2-[18F]-fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose positron-emission tomography (PET)/computed tomography (CT), a transient increase in the metabolic activity of the pituitary gland with subsequent decline to background activity is also suggestive of IH. We suggest that the sella is assessed routinely on imaging performed in the first 6 months after commencing immunotherapy to detect subtle changes. Radiologists should also be aware of features that either support a diagnosis of IH or suggest alternate diagnoses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-332
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Radiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021


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