Gamma Knife radiosurgery (GKRS) provides a safe and effective management option for patients with all types of pituitary adenomas. The long-term adverse effects of targeted radiation to the hypothalamic-pituitary axis in relationship to radiation dose remain unclear. In this retrospective review, the authors investigated the role of differential radiation doses in predicting long-term clinical outcomes and pituitary function after GKRS for pituitary adenomas.
A cohort of 236 patients with pituitary tumors (41.5% nonfunctioning, 58.5% functioning adenomas) was treated with GKRS between 1998 and 2015. Point dosimetric measurements, with no minimum volume, to 14 consistent points along the hypothalamus bilaterally, pituitary stalk, and normal pituitary were made. Statistical analyses were performed to determine the impact of doses to critical structures on clinical, radiological, and endocrine outcomes.
With a median follow-up duration of 42.9 months, 18.6% of patients developed new loss of pituitary function. The median time to endocrinopathy was 21 months (range 2–157 months). The median dose was 2.1 Gy to the hypothalamus, 9.1 Gy to the pituitary stalk, and 15.3 Gy to the normal pituitary. Increasing age (p = 0.015, HR 0.98) and ratio of maximum dose to the pituitary stalk over the normal pituitary gland (p = 0.013, HR 0.22) were independent predictors of new or worsening hypopituitarism in the multivariate analysis. Sex, margin dose, treatment volume, nonfunctioning adenoma status, or ratio between doses to the pituitary stalk and hypothalamus were not significant predictors.
GKRS offers a low rate of delayed pituitary insufficiency for pituitary adenomas. Doses to the hypothalamus are low and generally do not portend endocrine deficits. Patients who are treated with a high dose to the pituitary stalk relative to the normal gland are at higher risk of post-GKRS endocrinopathy. Point dosimetry to specific neuroanatomical structures revealed that a ratio of stalk-to-gland radiation dose of 0.8 or more significantly increased the risk of endocrinopathy following GKRS. Improvement in the gradient index toward the stalk and normal gland may help preserve endocrine function.