Frequency of pituitary tumor apoplexy during treatment of prolactinomas with dopamine agonists: a systematic review

CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2012 Dec;11(8):1012-4. doi: 10.2174/1871527311211080011.


Many researches that discourse the treatment of prolactinomas with dopamine agonists (DA) provide data about pituitary tumor apoplexy of some prolactinomas. Therefore, DA are listed as risk factors for apoplexy of prolactinomas. The authors wish to explore the percentage (frequency) of pituitary tumor apoplexy during the treatment of prolactinomas with DA. From June 2011 to February 2012, we sought electronic databases and found 2169 articles and 71 book chapters relevant to DA. Only seven articles have been included into systematic review and from 4 articles we extracted numerical data that showed percentage of pituitary tumor apoplexy. One hundred and fifty-seven patients treated with DA were included in four studies. Results showed the following percentage of apoplexy during the treatment of prolactinomas with DA (apoplexy/therapy ratio): 1/84(1,19%), 13/29(44,83%), 1/15(6,67%) and 1/29(3,45%). One result stands out from the other (13/29-44,83%) because of retrospective search for pituitary hemorrhage by MRI imaging of sellar region and some of the patients were without clinical signs of apoplexy. Median and mean age of included patients was usually over 30 years. Pituitary tumor apoplexy appeared more frequently in macroprolactinomas than in microprolactinomas and also within a year and a half since the beginning of treatment with DA. Conclusively, clinically manifested pituitary tumor apoplexy appears in relatively small percentage of prolactinomas treated with DA. We were also concluded that apoplexy appears asymptomatic and because of that and because of more frequently appearing in macroprolactinomas, there are recommendations for performing MRI imaging of sellar region more often in patients with macroprolactinomas than in patients with microprolactinomas who are treated with DA.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / trends
  • Dopamine Agonists / adverse effects*
  • Dopamine Agonists / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Pituitary Apoplexy / chemically induced
  • Pituitary Apoplexy / diagnosis
  • Pituitary Apoplexy / epidemiology*
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Prolactinoma / drug therapy*
  • Prolactinoma / epidemiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Dopamine Agonists