Classical pituitary tumour apoplexy: clinical features, management and outcomes in a series of 24 patients

Clin Neurol Neurosurg. 2007 Jan;109(1):63-70. doi: 10.1016/j.clineuro.2006.01.006. Epub 2006 Feb 20.


We retrospectively analysed the incidence, clinical presentation, endocrinological and radiological findings, medical and surgical management of pituitary apoplexy in our department (single-centre study), having a large experience in pituitary surgery. Among 1540 pituitary lesions, 24 patients presented with pituitary apoplexy. Their charts were retrospectively reviewed. The symptoms included headache (92%), nausea and vomiting (54%), visual deficit (50%), oculomotor paresis (54%) and/or an altered mental state (42%). Skull X-rays (n = 14) demonstrated an enlarged sella turcica in all cases; CT-scan and/or MRI always revealed a sellar and suprasellar expanding lesion. Panhypopituitarism was present on admission in 70% of the patients. Urgent therapeutic management included high-dose cortisone treatment in all but one patients and CSF drainage in three. Three patients were treated conservatively. Nine patients were operated on rapidly, within hours or a few days because of severe visual deficit and/or altered level of consciousness. Nineteen patients were operated by the trans-sphenoidal approach; one of them required a second operation by craniotomy. There were two deaths related to the illness and one to an ill-defined reason at 4 months. Among the other patients 95% made a good recovery. All but two patients required a substitutive treatment with adrenal (83%), thyroid (68%), gonadal (42%) and/or growth (16%) hormones. The preoperative visual deficits recovered in all but one patients (92%) whereas the oculomotor pareses improved in all but two patients (85%). In conclusion, pituitary tumour apoplexy is a rare event, complicating in our series 1.6% of 1540 pituitary adenomas. Even in severe cases, complete recovery is possible if the diagnosis is rapidly obtained and adequate management is initiated in time. Surgical results after trans-sphenoidal approach are in the majority of cases very satisfactory.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma / pathology*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pituitary Apoplexy / diagnosis*
  • Pituitary Apoplexy / etiology
  • Pituitary Apoplexy / therapy*
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome