Object. Pituitary adenomas are very common neoplasms, constituting between 10 and 20% of all primary brain tumors. Historically, the treatment armamentarium for pituitary adenomas has included medical management, microsurgery, and fractionated radiotherapy. More recently, radiosurgery has emerged as a viable treatment option. The goal of this research was to define more fully the efficacy, safety, and role of radiosurgery in the treatment of pituitary adenomas.
Methods. Medical literature databases were searched for articles pertaining to pituitary adenomas and stereotactic radiosurgery. Each study was examined to determine the number of patients, radiosurgical parameters (for example, maximal dose and tumor margin dose), duration of follow-up review, tumor growth control rate, complications, and rate of hormone normalization in the case of functioning adenomas.
A total of 35 peer-reviewed studies involving 1621 patients were examined. Radiosurgery resulted in the control of tumor size in approximately 90% of treated patients. The reported rates of hormone normalization for functioning adenomas varied substantially. This was due in part to widespread differences in endocrinological criteria used for the postradiosurgical assessment. The risks of hypopituitarism, radiation-induced neoplasia, and cerebral vasculopathy associated with radiosurgery appeared lower than those for fractionated radiation therapy. Nevertheless, further observation will be required to understand the true probabilities. The incidence of other serious complications following radiosurgery was quite low.
Conclusions. Although microsurgery remains the primary treatment modality in most cases, stereotactic radiosurgery offers both safe and effective treatment for recurrent or residual pituitary adenomas. In rare instances, radiosurgery may be the best initial treatment for patients with pituitary adenomas. Further refinements in the radiosurgical technique will likely lead to improved outcomes.