Object. The primary empty sella syndrome (ESS) represents a heterogeneous clinical picture characterized by endocrine disturbances and signs of intracranial hypertension. An increase in intracranial pressure (ICP) is proposed to be one of the involved pathogenetic factors.
Methods. The series included 142 patients who were observed during a period of 20 years. All patients underwent an ICP and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) dynamics evaluation through the use of a lumbar constant-rate infusion test.
Impairment of ICP and CSF dynamics was observed in 109 patients (76.8%). In 35 of the 36 patients affected by severe intracranial hypertension without rhinorrhea, improvement in adverse neurological symptoms was achieved after implanting a CSF shunt. Visual function, already seriously compromised before surgery, remained severely altered in one patient. In the group of 34 patients affected by rhinorrhea, CSF leakage was controlled using different surgical treatments: CSF shunt placement in 16 cases, surgical repair of the sellar floor in three, and both procedures in the remaining 13. Two patients refused any surgical treatment.
Conclusions. The role of increased ICP in the pathogenesis and perpetuation of primary ESS has been confirmed. Adverse neurological signs and a CSF leak are correlated with an actual increase in ICP and are relieved after CSF shunt insertion. Cerebrospinal fluid rhinorrhea is more common than generally thought. Its resolution can be achieved using a careful diagnostic protocol and sometimes may require different surgical procedures.