Magnetic resonance imaging of the normal equine pituitary gland

Vet Radiol Ultrasound. 2022 Jul;63(4):450-455. doi: 10.1111/vru.13072. Epub 2022 Feb 21.


Magnetic resonance imaging is increasingly available for evaluation of horses with suspected pituitary adenomas; however, published studies describing the MRI features of normal equine pituitary glands are currently lacking. This retrospective, descriptive, anatomic study describes the MRI appearance and size of presumed normal equine pituitary glands and assesses potential correlations between pituitary size, brain size, and patient weight. These findings serve as a reference for MRI evaluation of the equine pituitary gland. Inclusion criteria consisted of adult horses (2-15 years old), over 300 kg with no evidence of Pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID) and no pituitary abnormalities identified with MRI, yielding 27 horses. Histology was available on seven pituitary glands; all were considered normal by a board-certified anatomic pathologist. Imaging features of the glands were evaluated on T2-weighted and pre- and postcontrast T1-weighted images. Pituitary length, width, and height and brain height and width were measured by two authors on transverse and mid-sagittal plane postcontrast T1 weighted images. The mean ± SD pituitary gland width was 21.0 ± 2.4 mm, height: 10.4 ± 1.9 mm, and length: 24.5 ± 2.7 mm. There were no significant correlations using a Pearson's correlation coefficient between pituitary and brain measurements, pituitary measurement, and body weight, or between brain measurements and body weight. A statistical difference was not identified using an unpaired t-test (p > 0.05) in pituitary and brain measurements between necropsied and non-necropsied horses. Relative to the cerebral white matter, all pituitary glands were isointense to slightly hyperintense on T1-weighted images and isointense on T2-weighted images, with the exception of a focal T1-weighted hyperintensity that was present in the caudal aspect of the pituitary gland in 88% of horses. All pituitary glands were homogenously contrast enhancing. Pituitary dimensions did not correlate with either brain size or body weight in horses.

Keywords: adenoma; equine; imaging; pituitary gland.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Weight
  • Horse Diseases* / diagnostic imaging
  • Horse Diseases* / pathology
  • Horses
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / veterinary
  • Pituitary Gland / diagnostic imaging
  • Pituitary Neoplasms* / veterinary
  • Retrospective Studies