Home > Journals > Minerva Endocrinologica > Past Issues > Minerva Endocrinologica 2004 December;29(4) > Minerva Endocrinologica 2004 December;29(4):241-73



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Minerva Endocrinologica 2004 December;29(4):241-73


language: English

Diagnosis and treatment of pituitary adenomas

Chanson P., Salenave S.


Pituitary tumors cause symptoms by secreting hormones (prolactin, PRL, responsible for amenorrhea-galactorrhea in women and decreased libido in men; growth hormone, GH, responsible for acromegaly; adrenocorticotropic hormone, ACTH, responsible for Cushing's syndrome; thyroid-stimulating hormone, TSH, responsible for hyperthyroidism), depressing the secretion of hormones (hypopititarism), or by mass-related effects (headaches, visual field abnormalities...). All patients with pituitary tumors should be evaluated for gonadal, thyroid and adrenal function as well as PRL and GH secretion. Specific stimulation and suppression tests for pituitary hormones are performed in selected situations for detecting the type of hypersecretion or the response to treatment. Imaging procedures (mainly magnetic resonance imaging, MRI, nowdays) determine the presence, size and extent of the lesion. The classification of pituitary tumors is based on the staining properties of the cell cytoplasm viewed by light microscopy and immunocytochemistry revealing the secretory pattern of the adenoma. Treatment of pituitary adenomas lies on surgery (performed in more than 99% of cases via a transphenoidal route) and radiotherapy, generally fractionated or, in selected cases, using stereotactic techniques such as gamma-knife. The availability of mediacal treatment (dopamine, DA, agonists, somatostatin analogs, GH-receptor antagonists...) has profoundly modified the indications of radiotherapy, drugs being now generally used as a second-line treatment, after surgery (or even as first-line treatment). Based on the results of the different treatment modalities for each type of pituitary adenoma, recommendations will be proposed. They may be summarized as follows. For treatment of GH-secreting adenomas, trans-sphenoidal surgery is the first-line therapy except when the macroadenoma is giant or if surgery is contra-indicated; postoperative radiation therapy (fractionated, or by gamma-knife) is performed for partially resected tumors or when GH levels remain elevated (eventually after a trial of somatostatin analog). Somatostatin analogs, now available in slow release form, are proposed when surgery is contra-indicated, or has failed to normalize GH levels, or in waiting for the delayed effects of radiation therapy. If the probability of surgical cure is low (e.g. in patients with very large and/or invasive tumors), then somatostatin analogs may be a reasonable primary therapeutic modality provided that the tumor does not threaten vision or neurological function. Pegvisomant, the new GH-receptor antagonist, is indicated in case of resistance to somatostatin analogs. Patients with PRL-secreting microadenomas may be treated either with trans-sphenoidal surgery or medically with DA agonists. In patients with macroadenomas, even in the presence of chiasmatic syndrome, DA agonists are now proposed as primary treatment. Indeed, effects on visual disturbances are often very rapid (within a few hours or days) and tumoral shrinkage is usually very significant. For patients with ACTH-secreting adenomas, primary therapy is generally trans-sphenoidal surgery by a skilled surgeon, whether or not a microadenoma is visible on MRI. Radiotherapy is reserved for patients who are subtotally resected or remain hyper-secretory after surgery. In waiting for the effects of radiotherapy, adrenal steroidogenesis inhibitors (mitotane, ketoconazole) may be indicated. If drugs are not available or not tolerated, bilateral adrenalectomy may be proposed. For patients with clinically non functioning adenomas (generally gonadotropin-secreting adenomas on immunocytochemistry), trans-sphenoidal surgery with or without postoperative radiation therapy is performed for almost all patients whether or not they have visual consequences of their tumor. Selected patients with small, incidentally discovered microadenomas may be carefully followed without immediate therapy.

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