Congenital hypopituitarism as a cause of undetectable estriol levels in the maternal triple-marker screen.
We are reporting a child with congenital panhypopituitarism, in whom deficient fetal steroidogenesis was suspected prenatally because of undetectable estriol levels measured in the maternal triple-marker screen. No fetal abnormalities were detected by ultrasonography. Amniocentesis demonstrated a normal 46,XX karyotype. Measurement of maternal urinary steroids failed to show elevation in the excretion of the major precursor for estriol, 16 alpha-hydroxydehydroepiandrosterone, indicating that the fetus did not have steroid sulfatase deficiency (placental sulfatase deficiency), the most common genetic cause of extremely low estriol. The steroid analysis excluded other rare single gene defects, including aromatase deficiency and 17 alpha-hydroxylase deficiency. We therefore suspected that the cause of low estriol in this fetus was adrenal insufficiency. Postnatal evaluation was consistent with panhypopituitarism, characterized by deficiency of all anterior pituitary hormones. Because this screen is now offered to more than half the pregnant women in the United States, reports of low estriol levels have become increasingly common. Therefore, it is essential that physicians be familiar with the various etiologies, perform the appropriate antenatal evaluation to determine the specific cause, and closely monitor both mother and child ante- and postnatally.