Pituitary Tumors

The pituitary is a small gland attached to the base of the brain (behind the nose) in an area called the pituitary fossa or sella turcica. The pituitary is often called the "master gland" because it controls the secretion of hormones. A normal pituitary gland weighs less than one gram, and is about the size and shape of a kidney bean.

The large majority of pituitary adenomas (tumors) are benign (not malignant) and are fairly slow growing. Adenomas are by far the most common disease affecting the pituitary. Most of these tumors can be successfully treated. Pituitary tumors can vary in size and behavior. Tumors that produce hormones are called functioning tumors, while those that do not produce hormones are called nonfunctioning tumors.

The symptoms of a pituitary tumor generally result from endocrine dysfunction. For example, this dysfunction can cause overproduction of growth hormones, as in acromegaly (giantism), or underproduction of growth hormones, as in hypothyroidism. Hormonal imbalances can impact fertility, menstrual periods, heat and cold tolerance, as well as affect the skin and body in other ways.

Because of the pituitary gland’s strategic location within the skull, tumors of the pituitary can compress important brain structures as they enlarge. The most common circumstance involves compression of the optic nerves, leading to a gradual loss of vision. This vision loss usually begins with a deterioration of lateral peripheral vision on both sides.

Surgical resection may be indicated. The transsphenoidal approach involves using endoscopes in a minimally invasive trans-nasal approach to the sphenoid sinus and sella.

This approach is usually the procedure of choice because it is less invasive, has fewer side effects, and patients generally recover more quickly. Patients can often leave the hospital as early as two to four days after surgery.

The doctors in the Neurosurgical Group of Texas confine their treatment of pituitary tumors to the Texas Medical Center hospitals, recognized around the world for excellence in state of the art medicine and neurosurgery.

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