To evaluate the biology of thyrotropin (TSH)-producing pituitary adenomas, the authors reviewed the charts of 19 patients who underwent transsphenoidal surgery within a 15-year period at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Between 1989 and 1991, the period during which immunostaining techniques were used consistently for diagnosis, 2.8% of the pituitary adenomas treated at UCSF were TSH-producing. The rate of reoperation for tumor recurrence was 10.5%. Before pituitary surgery, more than one-third of the 19 patients had undergone thyroid ablation. Two patients had a history of Hashimoto's thyroiditis. The female:male ratio was 1.7:1. Women tended to develop these tumors at a younger age and had a longer history of symptoms but their tumors were smaller and less often invasive than those seen in men. About 50% of the tumors were purely TSH-producing and 50% were plurihormonal, including five that produced both TSH and adrenocorticotroph hormone. All tumors were macroadenomas. Before surgery, 46% of the patients had abnormal electrocardiographic findings; 16% had a rapid onset of severe neurological conditions either before or after surgery. It is concluded that TSH-producing adenomas are more common in patients who undergo surgical treatment than was previously thought. In addition, they occur more frequently in women, have a different biology in women than in men, and tend to be associated with potentially life-threatening cardiovascular and neurological complications.