Repairing a "broken heart" with hormone replacement therapy: Case report of cardiogenic shock due to undiagnosed pituitary insufficiency

Shunzhong S. Bao, Simon J. Fisher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Objectives: To indicate cardiogenic shock as a very rare but serious clinical consequence of untreated panhypopituitarism attributable to Sheehan syndrome; to emphasize the importance of eliciting a detailed endocrine and obstetric history in women presenting with idiopathic heart failure; to highlight the diagnostic shortcomings of screening for thyroid dysfunction solely with thyroid-stimulating hormone determinations; and to report the reversibility of severe heart failure induced by long-term pituitary insufficiency. Methods: Described is a case report of a 35-year-old woman who presented with severe congestive heart failure, hypotension, and confusion. Her 2-dimensional echocardiogram revealed appreciable systolic and diastolic dysfunction. In screening for possible endocrine causes of heart failure, a normal thyroid-stimulating hormone level of 0.72 mIU/L (reference range, 0.35 to 5.5) was unremarkable; however, a profoundly low free thyroxine level of 0.12 ng/dL (reference range, 0.9 to 1.8) led clinicians to pursue a work-up of central hypothyroidism.Results: Endocrine testing confirmed the presence of panhypopituitarism and adrenal insufficiency. Magnetic resonance imaging of the brain revealed empty sella syndrome. Further questioning of the patient revealed a history of extensive postpartum bleeding 15 years earlier, failure to lactate, and secondary amenorrhea-all consistent with undiagnosed Sheehan syndrome. In the hospital, the patient was treated with intravenously administered corticosteroids and levothyroxine. Her mental status and symptomatic heart failure improved dramatically. After 9 months of oral levothyroxine and glucocorticoid therapy, the patient remained asymptomatic, and repeated echocardiography indicated completely normalized cardiac function. Conclusion: Severe heart failure and cardiogenic shock can be a very rare (but fortunately reversible) complication of long-standing panhypopituitarism resulting from undiagnosed Sheehan syndrome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e26-e31
JournalEndocrine Practice
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


Dive into the research topics of 'Repairing a "broken heart" with hormone replacement therapy: Case report of cardiogenic shock due to undiagnosed pituitary insufficiency'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this