Imaging of the sellar and parasellar regions

Clin Imaging. 2021 Sep:77:254-275. doi: 10.1016/j.clinimag.2021.05.022. Epub 2021 Jun 8.


Although a wide variety of pathologies can occur in the limited anatomic space within and surrounding the sella turcica only a few are common. This review aims to briefly summarize pituitary and parasellar anatomy and provide a focused description of the imaging features of both common and rare pituitary pathologies. Diagnoses of imaging findings with important implications for clinical management are highlighted. MR is the primary diagnostic modality for evaluation of this anatomic region. CT supplements MR in the evaluation of pathologies involving the bony sella turcica while angiography or nuclear medicine plays a limited clinical role. Despite the wide array of pathologies, imaging and basic clinical history will frequently yield a specific diagnosis or narrow differential. In certain pathologies such as hypophysitis or pituitary hyperplasia, proper imaging interpretation may obviate the need for surgical biopsy or resection. The two key elements to diagnosis in the pituitary region are localization of the abnormality and recognition of characteristic imaging features for different pathologies. Localization is particularly important in separating parasellar masses such as meningiomas, skull base tumors, carotid aneurysms, craniopharyngiomas, or sphenoid sinus tumors from pituitary masses. Imaging features are often variable and in some cases such as craniopharyngioma or epidermoid, can be almost pathognomonic. In cases of neoplastic pathology, imaging both provides diagnostic information and guides planning of surgical biopsy or resection. In most cases, biopsy or resection is performed though a trans-sphenoidal endoscopic route, and identifying invasion or the suprasellar cistern, skull base, or cavernous sinuses is critical.

Keywords: Infundibulum; Parasellar region; Pituitary adenomas; Pituitary gland; Skull base.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cavernous Sinus*
  • Craniopharyngioma*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Meningeal Neoplasms*
  • Pituitary Neoplasms*
  • Sella Turcica / diagnostic imaging