Cystic appearance on magnetic resonance imaging in bihormonal growth hormone and prolactin tumors in acromegaly

Pituitary. 2020 Dec;23(6):672-680. doi: 10.1007/s11102-020-01075-7.


Purpose: To investigate demographic, imaging and laboratory characteristics, and treatment outcomes of acromegaly patients who have bihormonal (BA) growth hormone (GH) and prolactin (PRL) immunoreactive adenomas compared to patients who have densely granulated GH adenomas (DGA) and sparsely granulated GH adenomas (SGA).

Methods: Retrospective review of single-center surgically treated acromegaly patients; pathology was analyzed by a single neuropathologist using 2017 WHO criteria. Preoperative magnetic resonance imaging was assessed to evaluate tumor size, cystic component, invasion and T2 signal intensity.

Results: Seventy-seven patients; 19 BA (9 mammosomatotroph and 10 mixed GH and PRL adenomas) were compared with 30 DGA, and 28 SGA. Patients with BA were older than SGA (49.6 vs 38.5 years, p = 0.035), had a higher IGF-1 index (3.3 vs 2.3, p = 0.040) and tumors were less frequently invasive (15.8% vs 57.1%, p = 0.005). BA more frequently had a cystic component on MRI than both SGA and DGA (52.6% vs 14.3%, and 22%, p = 0.005 and 0.033, respectively). When all histological types were combined, biochemical remission postoperatively was more common in non-cystic than cystic tumors (50% vs 22.5%, p = 0.042). Somatostatin receptor ligand response rate was 66.7%, 90.9% and 37.5% in BA, DGA and SGA patients, respectively (p = 0.053).

Conclusion: Imaging characteristics are an increasingly important adenoma behavior determinant. An adenoma cystic component may suggest that a GH adenoma is a BA. Cystic tumors exhibited lower rates of surgical remission in this series; therefore, optimized individual patient treatment is needed, as patients could be candidates for primary medical treatment.

Keywords: Acromegaly; Bihormonal; Growth hormone secreting pituitary adenoma; Mammosomatotroph; Mixed prolactin-growth secreting tumors; Somatostatin receptor ligands.

MeSH terms

  • Acromegaly / diagnostic imaging*
  • Acromegaly / metabolism*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Human Growth Hormone / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pituitary Gland
  • Pituitary Neoplasms
  • Prolactin / metabolism*


  • Human Growth Hormone
  • Prolactin