Inappropriately low levels of gonadotrophins in amenorrhoeic women with alcoholic and non-alcoholic cirrhosis

in European Journal of Endocrinology
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Bell H, Raknerud N, Falch JA, Haug E. Inappropriately low levels of gonadotrophins in amenorrhoeic women with alcoholic and non-alcoholic cirrhosis. Eur J Endocrinol 1995;132:444–9. ISSN 0804–4643

We investigated a group of 111 amenorrhoeic females with associated liver disease. These comprised alcoholic cirrhotics (N = 38), non-alcoholic cirrhotics (N = 12), non-cirrhotic alcoholics (N = 21) and those suffering from other chronic liver diseases (N = 40) admitted to our medical department from 1986 to 1991. The serum levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), oestradiol, testosterone, sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) and prolactin were measured. Serum LH was decreased below the normal range in 50% of patients with alcoholic cirrhosis and in 42% of patients with non-alcoholic cirrhosis. One third of non-cirrhotic alcoholics also had decreased LH, in contrast to only 8% of patients with other chronic liver diseases (p < 0.01). A close correlation was found between LH and FSH when all patients were pooled (r = 0.91, p < 0.001). A gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) injection elicited a clear LH and FSH response in 11 out of 14 patients with cirrhosis, indicating that the hypothalamus rather than the pituitary is the site of disturbance in gonadotrophin secretion. Serum SHBG was within normal limits and similar in all four groups. In nine females with alcoholic cirrhosis who abstained for 3 months, serum SHBG increased significantly from 39 ± 18 to 70 ± 25 nmol/l (p < 0.001), while LH increased in five of nine females and was unchanged in four. In conclusion, half of the amenorrhoeic females with alcoholic as well as non-alcoholic cirrhosis had inappropriately low serum LH and FSH levels, indicating dysfunction of the hypothalamo–pituitary axis. The GnRH test indicated that disturbed hypothalamic function was the cause of the decreased LH and FSH secretion.

Helge Bell, Department of Medicine, Aker University Hospital, Trondhjemsveien 235, 0514 Oslo, Norway


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