Radiological and clinical outcomes of pituitary apoplexy: comparison of conservative management versus early surgical intervention

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  • 1 Department of Neurosurgery, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, Virginia;
  • 2 Department of Neurosurgery, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas; and
  • 3 Surgical Neurology Branch, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland
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OBJECTIVE

Early surgical intervention for patients with pituitary apoplexy (PA) is thought to improve visual outcomes and decrease mortality. However, some patients may have good clinical outcomes without surgery. The authors sought to compare the radiological and clinical outcomes of patients with PA who were managed conservatively versus those who underwent early surgery.

METHODS

Patients with symptomatic PA were identified. Radiological, endocrinological, and ophthalmological data were reviewed. Patients with progressive visual deterioration or ophthalmoplegia were candidates for early surgery (within 7 days). Patients without visual symptoms or whose symptoms improved on high-dose steroids were treated conservatively. Log-rank and univariate analysis compared clinical and radiological outcomes between those receiving early surgery and those who underwent intended conservative management.

RESULTS

Sixty-four patients with PA were identified: 47 (73.4%) underwent intended conservative management, while 17 (26.6%) had early surgery. Patients receiving early surgery had increased rates of impaired visual acuity (VA; 64.7% vs 27.7%, p = 0.009); visual field (VF) deficits (64.7% vs 19.2%, p = 0.002); and cranial neuropathies (58.8% vs 29.8%, p < 0.05) at presentation. Tumor volumes were greater in the early surgical cohort (15.1 ± 14.8 cm3 vs 4.5 ± 10.3 cm3, p < 0.001). The median clinical and radiological follow-up visits were longer in the early surgical cohort (70.0 and 64.4 months vs 26.0 and 24.7 months, respectively; p < 0.001). Among those with VA/VF deficits, visual outcomes were similar between both groups (p > 0.9). The median time to VA improvement (2.0 vs 3.0 months, p = 0.9; HR 0.9, 95% CI 0.3–3.5) and the median time to VF improvement (2.0 vs 1.5 months; HR 0.8, 95% CI 0.3–2.6, p = 0.8) were similar across both cohorts. Cranial neuropathy improvement was more common in conservatively managed patients (HR 4.8, 95% CI 1.5–15.4, p < 0.01). Conservative management failed in 7 patients (14.9%) and required surgery. PA volumes spontaneously regressed in 95.0% of patients (38/40) with successful conservative management, with a 6-month regression rate of 66.2%. Twenty-seven patients (19 in the conservative and 8 in the early surgical cohorts) responded to a prospectively administered Visual Function Questionnaire-25 (VFQ-25). VFQ-25 scores were similar across both cohorts (conservative 95.5 ± 3.8, surgery 93.2 ± 5.1, p = 0.3). Younger age, female sex, and patients with VF deficits or chiasmal compression were more likely to experience unsuccessful conservative management. Surgical outcomes were similar for patients receiving early versus delayed surgery.

CONCLUSIONS

These data suggest that a majority of patients with PA can be successfully managed without surgical intervention assuming close neurosurgical, radiological, and ophthalmological follow-up is available.

ABBREVIATIONS CN = cranial nerve; DI = diabetes insipidus; GCS = Glasgow Coma Scale; PA = pituitary apoplexy; VA = visual acuity; VF = visual field; VFQ-25 = Visual Function Questionnaire-25.

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Contributor Notes

Correspondence John A. Jane Jr.: University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, VA. johnjanejr@virginia.edu.

INCLUDE WHEN CITING Published online April 30, 2021; DOI: 10.3171/2020.9.JNS202899.

Disclosures The authors report no conflict of interest concerning the materials or methods used in this study or the findings specified in this paper.

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