The insulin tolerance test (ITT) is the gold standard for the diagnosis of GH deficiency (GHD) and hypocortisolism. As hypopituitarism is a common disorder after traumatic brain injury (TBI) and subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), the test is increasingly used in patients with pre-existing brain damage.
A cross-sectional, observational study.
Fifty-six patients (41 TBI and 15 SAH) were tested with the ITT (0.15 IE/kg body weight, mean glucose 33 mg/dl). In 38 patients, the test was performed in a supine position; the other 18 patients were in a sitting position during the ITT.
Hypocortisolism and GHD were more often diagnosed in a supine than in a sitting position (hypocortisolism: 55.3% supine versus 0% sitting, P<0.0001; GHD: 42.1% supine versus 11.1% sitting, P=0.03). Patients in a sitting position suffered more often from symptoms such as tachycardia (61.1% sitting versus 15.8% supine, P=0.001), trembling (22.2 vs 7.9%, NS), and sweating (66.7 vs 28.9%, P=0.007). There were no significant differences between the groups in drowsiness (72.2% sitting versus 65.8% supine, NS), dizziness (44.4 vs 44.7%, NS), and fatigue (33.3 vs 15.8%, NS). Because of somnolence, the hypoglycemic state could only be stopped with i.v. administration of glucose in 25 supine patients (66%). In contrast, none of the 18 patients (0%) tested in a sitting position got somnolent or was in need of i.v. application of glucose (P<0.001).
In patients with brain injury, posture might affect rates of diagnosing GHD and hypocortisolism and sympathetic symptoms in the ITT. These findings are exploratory and need replication in a standardized setting.