September 18, 1998

New Pituitary Center to tackle small gland’s big impact on health

New Pituitary Center to tackle small gland's big impact on health

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Dr. Lewis Blevins Jr. is the director of VUMC's new Pituitary Center. (Photo by Donna Jones Bailey)

A new center in The Vanderbilt Clinic devoted to addressing problems of the pituitary gland is helping Middle Tennesseans receive more efficient care.

The VUMC Pituitary Center sees patients each Friday morning and brings together the varied specialties necessary to care for patients with abnormalities of the pituitary gland. These specialties often include Neurosurgery, Endocrinology, Pathology and Ophthalmology.

"The Pituitary Center is an effort to centralize patient care and make it easier for patients who come to VUMC to get all their tests and treatments done in one visit," said Dr. Lewis S. Blevins Jr., associate professor of Medicine and Neurosurgery and director of the newly created Pituitary Center.

The pituitary gland is small in size, but its impact on the human body can be quite large. It's a pea-sized gland attached to the base of the skull and is often referred to as the master endocrine gland. It controls many of the body's hormone regulation functions. Disorders of the pituitary gland include such growth regulation diseases such as acromegaly, abnormal growth of the bones in the hands, feet and face, and Cushing's disease, which results in weight gain, redding of the face and excess growth of body and facial hair.

"It is a very important part of the body's hormone regulation system. It is quite amazing that such a tiny gland can control so many functions in the body," said Blevins.

Pituitary tumors are fairly common but do not usually cause problems for most people. Tumors that do cause problems often need to be removed surgically.

"It is like any other endocrine organ; there are lots of tumors that form but very few cause problems," said Blevins.

Like the goals of VUMC, the objectives of the pituitary center include research and education as well as its primary mission of patient care.

"We have residents from several departments who learn in the center. Part of the center is designed to teach these trainees how to take care of patients with pituitary diseases," said Blevins.

In addition to teaching students, the Pituitary Center will also host lectures for area physicians and provide education to the general public.

"The research arm of our mission has just begun to take shape, but we have found several investigators who are interested in collaborating with us on projects," Blevins said.