Contemporary management of prolactinomas

James K. Liu M.D. and William T. Couldwell M.D., Ph.D.
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  • Department of Neurosurgery, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, Utah
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Prolactin-secreting pituitary adenomas—prolactinomas—are the most common type of functional pituitary tumor. Treatment of hyperprolactinemia is indicated because of the consequences of infertility, gonadal dysfunction, and osteoporosis. Making the correct diagnosis is important because the first line of therapy is medical management with dopamine agonists. Medical therapy is effective in normalizing prolactin levels in more than 90% of patients, but long-term treatment may be required in some patients. Transsphenoidal surgery is usually indicated in those patients in whom medical therapy fails or cannot be tolerated, or in patients who harbor microprolactinomas. In experienced hands, a hormonal and oncological cure can be achieved in more than 90% of patients after transsphenoidal removal of microprolactinomas with minimal risks. Thus, surgery may be an option for microprolactinomas in a young patient who desires restoration of fertility and avoidance of long-term medical therapy. The authors review the diagnosis and management of prolactinomas, including medical therapy, surgical therapy, and stereotactic radiosurgery.

Abbreviation used in this paper:MR = magnetic resonance.

Prolactin-secreting pituitary adenomas—prolactinomas—are the most common type of functional pituitary tumor. Treatment of hyperprolactinemia is indicated because of the consequences of infertility, gonadal dysfunction, and osteoporosis. Making the correct diagnosis is important because the first line of therapy is medical management with dopamine agonists. Medical therapy is effective in normalizing prolactin levels in more than 90% of patients, but long-term treatment may be required in some patients. Transsphenoidal surgery is usually indicated in those patients in whom medical therapy fails or cannot be tolerated, or in patients who harbor microprolactinomas. In experienced hands, a hormonal and oncological cure can be achieved in more than 90% of patients after transsphenoidal removal of microprolactinomas with minimal risks. Thus, surgery may be an option for microprolactinomas in a young patient who desires restoration of fertility and avoidance of long-term medical therapy. The authors review the diagnosis and management of prolactinomas, including medical therapy, surgical therapy, and stereotactic radiosurgery.

Abbreviation used in this paper:MR = magnetic resonance.

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Contributor Notes

Address reprint requests to: William T. Couldwell, M.D., Ph.D., Department of Neurosurgery, University of Utah School of Medicine, 30 North 1900 East, Suite 3B409, Salt Lake City, Utah 84132. email: William.Couldwell@hsc.utah.edu.

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