Pituitary adenomas complicating cardiac surgery: summary and review of 11 cases

J Card Surg. 1995 Mar;10(2):125-32. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-8191.1995.tb01230.x.


From the literature and our own experience, 11 cases of hemorrhage or infarction of a pituitary adenoma associated with cardiac surgery have been identified over a 13-year period. Males outnumbered females by 10 to 1. Symptoms observed were headache, lethargy, confusion, obtundation, unilateral ptosis, meiosis, and opthalmoplegia involving cranial nerves III, IV, and VI, visual field deficits, and hemiparesis. Diagnosis in most recent cases has been confirmed with computerized tomography or magnetic resonance imaging. All patients received adrenocortical steroid therapy initially. Eight patients underwent transsphenoidal hypophysectomy and all survived. One patient underwent decompression craniotomy and died. Intracranial surgery was deferred in 1 patient who survived and in another who died of a massive stroke. Residual neurological deficits were noted to be either absent, minimal, or resolving in 7 of the 9 patients who survived their initial hospitalization. While numerous mechanisms have been proposed to explain the hemorrhage and necrosis of a pituitary adenoma during heart surgery, no direct cause has been clearly identified. Surgical treatment is commonly necessary since untreated pituitary apoplexy is often fatal. Transsphenoidal hypophysectomy with decompression is the preferred method of treatment with a low perioperative mortality and fairly good long-term prognosis.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma / complications
  • Adenoma / diagnosis*
  • Aged
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures*
  • Female
  • Heart Diseases / complications
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / complications
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Postoperative Complications / diagnosis*