The volume of the pituitary gland in adults with bipolar disorder has previously been reported to be smaller than that of healthy controls. Such abnormalities would be consistent with the HPA dysfunction reported in this illness. We conducted a study of children and adolescents with bipolar disorder to determine whether size abnormalities in the pituitary gland are already present early in illness course. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) morphometric analysis of the pituitary gland was carried out in 16 DSM-IV children and adolescents with bipolar disorder (mean age+/-sd=15.5+/-3.4 years) and 21 healthy controls (mean age+/-sd=16.9+/-3.8 years). Subjects underwent a 1.5 T MRI, with 3-D Spoiled Gradient Recalled (SPGR) acquisition. There was no statistically significant difference between pituitary gland volumes of bipolar patients compared to healthy controls (ANCOVA, age, gender, and ICV as covariates; F=1.77, df=1,32, P=.19). There was a statistically significant direct relationship between age and pituitary gland volume in both groups (r=.59, df=17, P=.007 for healthy controls; r=.61, df=12, P=.008 for bipolar patients). No evidence of size abnormalities in the pituitary gland was found in child and adolescent bipolar patients, contrary to reports involving adult bipolar patients. This suggests that anatomical abnormalities in this structure may develop later in illness course as a result of continued HPA dysfunction.
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