An 82-year-old woman receiving nivolumab plus ipilimumab for stage IV melanoma with corticotropin deficiency, hypothyroidism, and headache for 9 days. Contrast-enhanced 3D-MR imaging (90 seconds after contrast medium injection) demonstrates an enlarged pituitary gland and stalk and an irregularly shaped hypoenhancing lesion in the anterior lobe (A, sagittal reconstruction; B, coronal reconstruction, arrows). The lesion shows mild hypointensity on T2WI (C, arrow). The lesion is gradually enhanced in contrast-enhanced 2D sagittal MR imaging performed 90 more seconds after the 3D MR imaging (D, arrow).


Hypophysitis is one of the well-known adverse effects of immune checkpoint inhibitors. Immune checkpoint inhibitor–induced hypophysitis frequently causes irreversible hypopituitarism, which requires long-term hormone replacement. Despite the high frequency and clinical significance, characteristic MR imaging findings of immune checkpoint inhibitor–induced hypophysitis have not been established. In the present study, we aimed to review and extract the MR imaging features of immune checkpoint inhibitor–induced hypophysitis.


This retrospective international multicenter study comprised 20 patients with melanoma who were being treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors and clinically diagnosed with immune checkpoint inhibitor–induced hypophysitis. Three radiologists evaluated the following MR imaging findings: enlargement of the pituitary gland and stalk; homogeneity of enhancement of the pituitary gland; presence/absence of a well-defined poorly enhanced area and, if present, its location, shape, and signal intensity in T2WI; and enhancement pattern in contrast-enhanced dynamic MR imaging. Clinical symptoms and hormone levels were also recorded.


Enlargement of the pituitary gland and stalk was observed in 12 and 20 patients, respectively. Nineteen patients showed poorly enhanced lesions (geographic hypoenhancing lesions) in the anterior lobe, and 11 of these lesions showed hypointensity on T2WI. Thyrotropin deficiency and corticotropin deficiency were observed in 19/20 and 12/17 patients, respectively, which persisted in 12/19 and 10/12 patients, respectively, throughout the study period.


Pituitary geographic hypoenhancing lesions in the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland are characteristic and frequent MR imaging findings of immune checkpoint inhibitor–induced hypophysitis. They reflect fibrosis and are useful in distinguishing immune checkpoint inhibitor–induced hypophysitis from other types of hypophysitis/tumors.

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Jeffrey Ross

• Mayo Clinic, Phoenix

Dr. Jeffrey S. Ross is a Professor of Radiology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, and practices neuroradiology at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona. His publications include over 100 peer-reviewed articles, nearly 60 non-refereed articles, 33 book chapters, and 10 books. He was an AJNR Senior Editor from 2006-2015, is a member of the editorial board for 3 other journals, and a manuscript reviewer for 10 journals. He became Editor-in-Chief of the AJNR in July 2015. He received the Gold Medal Award from the ASSR in 2013.

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