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Pituitary stalk thickening (PST) is often identified on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), either incidentally or during diagnostic workup of hypopituitarism. However, the neoplastic etiology and natural course of PST are not fully understood, although this knowledge is required to establish diagnostic and surveillance strategies. This work aimed to investigate the neoplastic etiology and natural course of PST. MEDLINE/PubMed and EMBASE databases were searched up to February 2021 to identify original research investigating the etiologies of PST. The proportion of neoplastic etiology in patients with PST was meta-analytically pooled. Supplementary analysis exploring factors suggesting neoplasm was also performed. For initially indeterminate cases without confirmed diagnosis, the proportion of patients showing progression of PST during follow-up was evaluated. Eighteen studies covering 1368 patients with PST were included. The pooled proportion of neoplasm was 45.2% (95% CI, 33.3%-57.8%), with substantial heterogeneity across studies (I2 = 93%). The most common neoplasm was germ cell tumor (14.0% of study population), followed by Langerhans cell histiocytosis (10.2%) and metastasis (4.7%). The studies on pediatric populations and those with more than 50% of patients having at least one pituitary hormone deficiency tended to show a higher proportion of neoplasm. The pituitary stalk was thicker in neoplasms, but the difference was not significant (pooled mean difference, 2.08 mm; P = .08). In initially indeterminate cases, 18.5% (95% CI, 7.6%-38.3%) showed progression of PST during follow-up. PST was commonly confirmed to be neoplastic, especially in pediatric populations. As isolated PST frequently progresses, follow-up imaging is essential in initially indeterminate cases. © The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Endocrine Society. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail:


Dong Yeong Kim, Pyeong Hwa Kim, Ah Young Jung, Jin-Ho Choi, Young Ah Cho, Hee Mang Yoon, Jin Seong Lee. Neoplastic Etiology and Natural Course of Pituitary Stalk Thickening. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism. 2022 Jan 18;107(2):563-574

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PMID: 34614160

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