Intrasellar tuberculoma--an enigmatic pituitary infection: a series of 18 cases

Clin Neurol Neurosurg. 2000 Jun;102(2):72-7. doi: 10.1016/s0303-8467(00)00063-9.


Objective: Intrasellar tuberculomas are rare and only few case reports have been described in the literature. We report a series of 18 cases of histologically proven intrasellar tuberculomas, which, to the best of our knowledge, is the largest series in the English literature.

Methods: A total of 1143 pituitary lesions, between 1984 and June 1999, were operated for various reasons in our institute. Of these, 18 cases were histopathologically proven intrasellar tuberculomas. The clinical profile was reviewed in detail. Radiological data and histopathological slides were also reviewed.

Results: The age ranged from 8 to 43 years (average 23.6 years) with a female preponderance. The duration of symptoms varied from 15 days to 2 years (average 4 months), the most common symptoms being headache followed by decrease or loss of vision. Five patients had features of pan-hypopituitarism whereas three had raised prolactin (PRL) levels. In six patients, both sella as well as sphenoid sinus were involved. In one patient the lesion was extending from the sella over the clivus. Clinically as well as radiologically, these lesions were mistaken for pituitary adenomas except for one case where tuberculoma was suspected on imaging. In three patients, there was past history of pulmonary tuberculosis, in one patient of tuberculous meningitis, and in one patient, of spondilytis of the spine. In one patient there was cervical lymphadenopathy along with features of acromegaly (also proved by high levels of serum growth hormone) and radiology revealed a pituitary pathology. Microscopic examination of the excised lesion revealed a composite lesion consisting of a pituitary adenoma and tuberculoma, which has not been documented in literature to date. One patient died during the hospital stay. All the other patients were put on antitubercular chemotherapy following surgery and had good outcomes.

Conclusion: Intrasellar tuberculomas are rare. These may be suspected in female patients especially if radiological imaging shows involvement of paranasal sinuses and pituitary fossa along with thickening of pituitary stalk. Simultaneous involvement of clivus may also be an additional feature. The incidence of pituitary tuberculosis is likely to increase with a rise in the incidence of AIDS.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antitubercular Agents / therapeutic use
  • Brain Diseases / complications
  • Brain Diseases / pathology*
  • Brain Diseases / therapy
  • Child
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypopituitarism / etiology
  • Lymphadenitis / complications
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Neck
  • Pituitary Gland / diagnostic imaging
  • Pituitary Gland / pathology*
  • Pituitary Gland / surgery
  • Prolactin / blood
  • Radiography
  • Sella Turcica / diagnostic imaging
  • Sella Turcica / pathology*
  • Sella Turcica / surgery
  • Tuberculoma / complications
  • Tuberculoma / pathology*
  • Tuberculoma / therapy
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / complications


  • Antitubercular Agents
  • Prolactin