Diagnostic testing for pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction in horses

Noël O. Dybdal From the Departments of Pathology (Dybdal, Gribble, Kennedy), Medicine (Madigan), and Reproduction (Stabenfeldt), School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA95616, and NAB, NIDR, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892 (Hargreaves).

Search for other papers by Noël O. Dybdal in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
 DVM, PhD
,
Kenneth Μ. Hargreaves From the Departments of Pathology (Dybdal, Gribble, Kennedy), Medicine (Madigan), and Reproduction (Stabenfeldt), School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA95616, and NAB, NIDR, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892 (Hargreaves).

Search for other papers by Kenneth Μ. Hargreaves in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
 PhD
,
John E. Madigan From the Departments of Pathology (Dybdal, Gribble, Kennedy), Medicine (Madigan), and Reproduction (Stabenfeldt), School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA95616, and NAB, NIDR, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892 (Hargreaves).

Search for other papers by John E. Madigan in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
 DVM, MS
,
David H. Gribble From the Departments of Pathology (Dybdal, Gribble, Kennedy), Medicine (Madigan), and Reproduction (Stabenfeldt), School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA95616, and NAB, NIDR, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892 (Hargreaves).

Search for other papers by David H. Gribble in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
 DVM, PhD
,
Peter C. Kennedy From the Departments of Pathology (Dybdal, Gribble, Kennedy), Medicine (Madigan), and Reproduction (Stabenfeldt), School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA95616, and NAB, NIDR, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892 (Hargreaves).

Search for other papers by Peter C. Kennedy in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
 DVM, PhD
, and
George H. Stabenfeldt From the Departments of Pathology (Dybdal, Gribble, Kennedy), Medicine (Madigan), and Reproduction (Stabenfeldt), School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA95616, and NAB, NIDR, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892 (Hargreaves).

Search for other papers by George H. Stabenfeldt in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
 DVM, PhD

Click on author name to view affiliation information

Summary

Pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction is a slowly progressive disorder that afflicts most breeds of horses. Because it shares features with human Cushing disease, it has been referred to as equine Cushing disease. A variety of tests of pituitary-adrenocortical function were performed on horses with evidence of pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction, and results were compared with those in healthy control horses. Diurnal variations in plasma cortisol concentration were not statistically different between control horses and those with pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction. An ACTH stimulation (1 U of natural ACTH gel/kg of body weight, IM) test or a combined dexamethasone suppression test (10 mg, IM) and ACTH stimulation (100 mg of synthetic ACTH, IV) test also failed to distinguish horses with pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction from control horses. A significant (P < 0.001) dose-related suppression of cortisol concentration in response to increasing doses (5, 10, 20, and 40 μg/kg) of dexamethasone was observed in control horses but not in those with pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction. On the basis of plasma cortisol concentration, the dexamethasone suppression test, using 40 μg/kg, whether initiated at 5 PM with sample collection at 15 (8 AM) and 19 (12 PM) hours after dexamethasone administration, or initiated at 12 AM with sample collection at 8 (8 AM), 12 (12 PM), 16 (4 PM), 20 (8 PM), and 24 (12 AM) hours after dexamethasone administration, reliably distinguished between control horses and those with pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction. Several horses did not have clinical evidence of pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction, but did have abnormal dexamethasone suppression test results. In these horses, adenomatous hypertrophy and hyperplasia of the pars intermedia of the pituitary gland was confirmed at necropsy.

Summary

Pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction is a slowly progressive disorder that afflicts most breeds of horses. Because it shares features with human Cushing disease, it has been referred to as equine Cushing disease. A variety of tests of pituitary-adrenocortical function were performed on horses with evidence of pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction, and results were compared with those in healthy control horses. Diurnal variations in plasma cortisol concentration were not statistically different between control horses and those with pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction. An ACTH stimulation (1 U of natural ACTH gel/kg of body weight, IM) test or a combined dexamethasone suppression test (10 mg, IM) and ACTH stimulation (100 mg of synthetic ACTH, IV) test also failed to distinguish horses with pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction from control horses. A significant (P < 0.001) dose-related suppression of cortisol concentration in response to increasing doses (5, 10, 20, and 40 μg/kg) of dexamethasone was observed in control horses but not in those with pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction. On the basis of plasma cortisol concentration, the dexamethasone suppression test, using 40 μg/kg, whether initiated at 5 PM with sample collection at 15 (8 AM) and 19 (12 PM) hours after dexamethasone administration, or initiated at 12 AM with sample collection at 8 (8 AM), 12 (12 PM), 16 (4 PM), 20 (8 PM), and 24 (12 AM) hours after dexamethasone administration, reliably distinguished between control horses and those with pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction. Several horses did not have clinical evidence of pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction, but did have abnormal dexamethasone suppression test results. In these horses, adenomatous hypertrophy and hyperplasia of the pars intermedia of the pituitary gland was confirmed at necropsy.

Advertisement