Empty sella syndrome: Multiple endocrine disorders

Handb Clin Neurol. 2021:181:29-40. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-820683-6.00003-8.


Empty sella is a pituitary disorder characterized by the herniation of the subarachnoid space within the sella turcica. This is often associated with a variable degree of flattening of the pituitary gland. Empty sella has to be distinguished in primary and secondary forms. Primary empty sella (PES) excludes any history of previous pituitary pathologies such as previous surgical, pharmacologic, or radiotherapy treatment of the sellar region. PES is considered an idiopathic disease and may be associated with idiopathic intracranial hypertension. Secondary empty sella, however, may occur after the treatment of pituitary tumors through neurosurgery or drugs or radiotherapy, after spontaneous necrosis (ischemia or hemorrhage) of chiefly adenomas, after pituitary infectious processes, pituitary autoimmune diseases, or brain trauma. Empty sella, in the majority of cases, is only a neuroradiological finding, without any clinical implication. However, empty sella syndrome is defined in the presence of pituitary hormonal dysfunction (more frequently hypopituitarism) and/or neurological symptoms due to the possible coexisting of idiopathic intracranial hypertension. Empty sella syndrome represents a peculiar clinical entity, characterized by heterogeneity both in clinical manifestations and in hormonal alterations, sometimes reaching severe extremes. For a proper diagnosis, management, and follow-up of empty sella syndrome, a multidisciplinary approach with the integration of endocrine, neurological, and ophthalmological experts is strongly advocated.

Keywords: Empty sella; Empty sella syndrome; Hyperprolactinemia; Hypopituitarism; Intracranial idiopathic hypertension.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Empty Sella Syndrome* / complications
  • Humans
  • Hypopituitarism*
  • Pituitary Diseases*
  • Pituitary Gland
  • Pituitary Neoplasms*