To evaluate the prevalence of resistance to cabergoline treatment, we studied 120 consecutive de novo patients (56 macroadenoma, 60 microadenoma, 4 nontumoral hyperprolactinemia) treated with cabergoline (CAB) compared with 87 consecutive de novo patients (28 macroadenoma, 44 microadenoma, 15 nontumoral hyperprolactinemia) treated with bromocriptine (BRC) for 24 months. Resistance was evaluated as inability to normalize serum PRL levels (first end point) and to induce tumor shrinkage (second end point). After 24 months, PRL normalization and tumor shrinkage after CAB and BRC treatments, respectively, were obtained in 82.1% and 46.4% of macroprolactinomas (P < 0.001) and in 90% vs. 56.8% of microprolactinomas (P < 0.001). The median doses of CAB and BRC able to fulfill the two criteria of treatment success were 1 mg/wk and 7.5 mg/d in macroprolactinomas, 1 mg/wk and 5 mg/d in microprolactinomas, and 0.5 mg/wk and 3.75 mg/d in nontumoral hyperprolactinemia. Hyperprolactinemia persisted in 17.8% of macroprolactinomas, 10% of microprolactinomas, and after CAB at doses of 5-7 mg/wk and in 53.6% of macroprolactinomas, 43.2% of microprolactinomas, and 20% of nontumoral hyperprolactinemic patients, after BRC at doses of 15-20 mg/d. In these resistant macro- and microprolactinomas, the maximal tumor diameter was reduced by 43.7 +/- 3.6% and 22.1 +/- 3.7% and by 59.3 +/- 7.1% and 4.3 +/- 2.1% after CAB and BRC, respectively (P < 0.001). In conclusion, long-term CAB treatment induced the successful control of hyperprolactinemia associated with tumor shrinkage in a higher proportion of patients than did BRC treatment. In a small number of patients (i.e. 17.8% of macroprolactinomas and 10% of microprolactinomas), however, CAB treatment did not normalize serum PRL levels despite reducing tumor mass, even at very high doses. Therefore, an absence of tumor shrinkage cannot be considered as end point to indicate resistance to CAB, and increasing the dose of CAB higher than 3 mg/wk does not seem to be helpful in controlling PRL hypersecretion.