Operative treatment of prolactinomas: indications and results in a current consecutive series of 212 patients

Eur J Endocrinol. 2008 Jan;158(1):11-8. doi: 10.1530/EJE-07-0248.


Objective: Medical therapy with dopamine agonists (DA) is the primary treatment of choice in most patients with prolactinomas. 'Classical' surgical indications are intolerance or lack of efficiency of DA therapy. Focusing on a possible shift of recent indications, we retrospectively analyzed our results of surgical treatment in prolactinomas.

Patients and methods: Between 1990 and 2005, we have operated on 212 consecutive patients with prolactinomas. Surgical indications were divided into 'classical' indications and 'modern' indications defined as cystic prolactinomas or patients with microprolactinomas who individually decided on a primary surgical treatment.

Results: Initial overall remission was accomplished in 53.2% including giant prolactinomas. However, in microadenomas, the remission rate was significantly higher with 91.3%. Overall remission at the latest follow-up was 42.7%, but 72.5% in intrasellar tumors, 80% in cystic prolactinomas, and 84.8% in microprolactinomas. The overall recurrence rate was 18.7%. Relapse of hyperprolactinemia in microprolactinomas was 7.1%. In our series, continually less patients were surgically treated for 'classical' indications. By contrast, the number of patients who individually decided on a primary surgical therapy has increased considerably.

Conclusion: Remission rates after surgical treatment of prolactinomas remain excellent, particularly in microadenoma and intrasellar macroadenomas, whereas morbidity of transsphenoidal surgery is low in the hands of experienced pituitary surgeons. Our remission rates not only confirm the already interdisciplinarily accepted surgical indications, but also emphasize the value of primary transsphenoidal surgery as a discussion-worthy alternative to dopaminergic therapy in young patients with microprolactinomas or cystic tumors.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Dopamine Agonists / adverse effects
  • Dopamine Agonists / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypogonadism / etiology
  • Hypogonadism / metabolism
  • Hypogonadism / pathology
  • Hypopituitarism / etiology
  • Hypopituitarism / metabolism
  • Hypopituitarism / pathology
  • Hypothyroidism / etiology
  • Hypothyroidism / metabolism
  • Hypothyroidism / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / metabolism
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / pathology
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Postoperative Complications / metabolism
  • Postoperative Complications / pathology
  • Prolactin / metabolism
  • Prolactinoma / surgery*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Dopamine Agonists
  • Prolactin