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Zvi Ram, Lynnette K. Nieman, Gordon B. Cutler Jr., George P. Chrousos, John L. Doppman and Edward H. Oldfield

✓ The potential efficacy of early repeat transsphenoidal surgery for persistent Cushing's disease has not previously been examined. On 222 patients with no prior pituitary treatment and a preoperative diagnosis of Cushing's disease, 29 (13%) remained hypercortisolemic after an initial transsphenoidal pituitary exploration. Seventeen of these 29 patients underwent further surgery 7 to 46 days after the initial transsphenoidal approach in order to completely excise suspected residual tumor. Patients were followed for 4 to 84 months (mean ± standard deviation, 34 ± 25 months) to document sustained remission or recurrence of Cushing's disease (a urine free cortisol level > 90 µg/day was considered evidence of recurrence).

Of the 17 patients with repeat surgery, 12 (71%) had resolution of hypercortisolism (morning plasma cortisol level < 5 µg/dl); however, in three of these 12, hypercortisolism recurred 5, 12, and 24 months later. In 14 patients a lesion that appeared to be a tumor was identified during the initial procedure or on histological examination. Of these, 12 had immediate resolution of hypercortisolism and nine are still in remission. Three patients, in whom no adenoma could be identified during the initial surgery or an examination of the partial hypophysectomy specimen from the initial surgery, had persistent Cushing's syndrome after the second operation. Seven (41%) of the 17 patients developed hypopituitarism requiring treatment with thyroid hormone, gonadal steroid, or vasopressin replacement.

The low incidence of identification of an adenoma on computerized tomography or magnetic resonance images (three of 17 patients), the failure to find a corticotrophic adenoma during the initial surgery (10 of 17 patients), and the failure of these 17 patients to respond to the initial transsphenoidal surgery suggest that they may comprise a subset of patients who are more difficult to treat successfully with surgery than most patients with Cushing's disease. Despite that, early reoperation induced immediate remission of hypercortisolism in 71% of cases, but did so at the expense of a high risk of hypopituitarism. However, since the alternative treatments (such as radiation therapy, long-term drug therapy, or bilateral adrenalectomy) also have potential adverse effects, early reoperation deserves consideration for the management of persistent Cushing's disease, especially when an adrenocorticotrophic hormone-secreting adenoma was partially excised during the first surgery.

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Robert B. Friedman, Edward H. Oldfield, Lynnette K. Nieman, George P. Chrousos, John L. Doppman, Gordon B. Cutler Jr. and D. Lynn Loriaux

✓ Transsphenoidal resection of adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH)-producing pituitary adenomas has the potential of curing most patients with Cushing's disease. However, transsphenoidal exploration of the pituitary is not always curative, and patients who have remission of hypercortisolism following surgery occasionally develop a recurrence. Whether repeat pituitary surgery should be performed for recurrent or persistent Cushing's disease has not been evaluated previously. To determine the efficacy of transsphenoidal surgery in recurrent or persistent Cushing's disease, we performed transsphenoidal surgery in 31 patients (22 women and nine men) who had previously undergone a transsphenoidal operation and two female patients who had had previous pituitary irradiation only.

In 24 (73%) of the 33 patients, remission of hypercortisolism was achieved by surgery. Although preoperative computerized tomography (CT) scanning identified an adenoma in only three of the 33 patients, in 20 patients a discrete adenoma was identified at pituitary exploration. The incidence of remission of hypercortisolism was greatest if an adenoma was identified at surgery and the patient received selective adenomectomy (19, or 95% of 20 patients), if there was evidence at surgery or by preoperative CT scanning that the previous surgical exposure of the pituitary was incomplete (seven, or 78% of nine patients), if an adenoma was seen on preoperative CT scanning (three of three patients), or if the patient had had prior pituitary irradiation without surgery (two of two patients). In contrast, only five (42%) of 12 patients who received subtotal or total hypophysectomy had remission of hypercortisolism. Surgically induced hypopituitarism occurred in six (50%) of these 12 patients, but in only one (5%) of the 20 patients who underwent selective adenomectomy. Three (13%) of the 24 patients who were in remission from hypercortisolism following repeat surgery developed recurrent hypercortisolism 10 to 47 months postoperatively.

Repeat transsphenoidal exploration of the pituitary and treatment limited to selective adenomectomy should be considered in patients with hypercortisolism despite previous pituitary treatment. If an adenoma is identified during surgery, the chance of remission of Cushing's disease is high and the risk of hypopituitarism is low; however, if no adenoma can be found and partial or complete hypophysectomy is performed, remission of hypercortisolism is less likely and the risk of hypopituitarism is about 50%.

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John Zovickian, Edward H. Oldfield, John L. Doppman, Gordon B. Cutler Jr. and D. Lynn Loriaux

✓ Bilateral and simultaneous sampling of the inferior petrosal sinuses in patients with Cushing's disease has been used to establish the presence and laterality of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-producing microad-enomas prior to transsphenoidal surgery. Successful preoperative lateralization depends upon equivalent dilution of pituitary venous blood on the two sides since samples which are diluted by unequal amounts of non-pituitary blood may lead to erroneous results. To assure valid sampling results, the use of other pituitary hormones, measured simultaneously, has been proposed to correct the ACTH concentrations from the inferior petrosal sinuses against unequal dilution by non-pituitary venous blood. This proposal presumes that ACTH-secreting microadenomas will not cause unequal delivery of the other pituitary hormones into the two inferior petrosal sinuses.

The inferior petrosal sinus concentrations of prolactin (PRL), thyrotropin (TSH), and the alpha subunit of human chorionic gonadotropin (α-HCG) were evaluated as indicators of pituitary venous blood dilution in 11 patients with Cushing's disease. Four patients with ectopic ACTH syndrome served as controls. Blood was withdrawn simultaneously from catheters in both inferior petrosal sinuses and from a peripheral vein for measurement of ACTH, PRL, TSH, and α-HCG. The ACTH concentrations were then corrected for dilution by non-pituitary blood by dividing the ACTH concentration from each side by the ratio of the inferior petrosal sinus to peripheral blood concentrations of PRL, TSH, and α-HCG for that side.

At surgery, all 11 patients had ACTH-secreting microadenomas on the side predicted by the uncorrected ACTH concentrations. However, in three patients the corrected ACTH values would have led to erroneous results. Among the 18 sets of corrected inferior petrosal sinus measurements in these three patients, the corrected ACTH values failed to show an inferior petrosal sinus gradient in six and localized the tumor to the side opposite the adenoma in four. Incorrect lateralization was obtained with each of the hormones (PRL, TSH, and α-HCG) used for correction. Furthermore, the ipsilateral (side of tumor)-to-contralateral inferior petrosal sinus gradient of ACTH in patients with Cushing's disease was generally paralleled by a significant inferior petrosal sinus gradient of PRL, TSH, and α-HCG to the side of the tumor, whereas patients with the ectopic ACTH syndrome tended not to exhibit lateralizing (side-to-side) gradients.

These findings indicate that the simultaneous measurement of inferior petrosal sinus concentrations of PRL or TSH or of the glycoprotein hormone α subunit does not improve preoperative localization of ACTH-secreting microadenomas and may lead to incorrect lateralization of the tumor. The results also suggest that ACTH-secreting microadenomas cause enhanced delivery of PRL, TSH, and α subunit into the inferior petrosal sinus ipsilateral to the tumor which, in turn, may reflect paracrine stimulation of hormone secretion in the anterior pituitary gland surrounding ACTH-secreting microadenomas.