Value of endoscopy for maximizing tumor removal in endonasal transsphenoidal pituitary adenoma surgery

Clinical article

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Endoscopy as a visual aid (endoscope assisted) or as the sole visual method (fully endoscopic) is increasingly used in pituitary adenoma surgery. Authors of this study assessed the value of endoscopic visualization for finding and removing residual adenoma after initial microscopic removal.


Consecutive patients who underwent endoscope-assisted microsurgical removal of pituitary adenoma were included in this study. The utility of the endoscope in finding and removing residual adenoma not visualized by the microscope was noted intraoperatively. After maximal tumor removal under microscopic visualization, surgeries were categorized as to whether additional tumor was removed via endoscopy. Tumor removal and remission rates were also noted. Patients undergoing fully endoscopic tumor removal during this same period were excluded from the study.


Over 3 years, 140 patients (41% women, mean age 50 years) underwent endoscope-assisted adenoma removal of 30 endocrine-active microadenomas and 110 macroadenomas (39 endocrine-active, 71 endocrine-inactive); 16% (23/140) of patients had prior surgery. After initial microscopic removal, endoscopy revealed residual tumor in 40% (56/140) of cases and the additional tumor was removed in 36% (50 cases) of these cases. Endoscopy facilitated additional tumor removal in 54% (36/67) of the adenomas measuring ≥ 2 cm in diameter and in 19% (14/73) of the adenomas smaller than 2 cm in diameter (p < 0.0001); additional tumor removal was achieved in 20% (6/30) of the microadenomas. Residual tumor was typically removed from the suprasellar extension and folds of the collapsed diaphragma sellae or along or within the medial cavernous sinus. Overall, 91% of endocrine-inactive tumors were gross-totally or near-totally removed, and 70% of endocrine-active adenomas had early remission.


After microscope-based tumor removal, endoscopic visualization led to additional adenoma removal in over one-third of patients. The panoramic visualization of the endoscope appears to facilitate more complete tumor removal than is possible with the microscope alone. These findings further emphasize the utility of endoscopic visualization in pituitary adenoma surgery. Longer follow-ups and additional case series are needed to determine if endoscopic adenomectomy translates into higher long-term remission rates.

Abbreviations used in this paper:ACTH = adrenocorticotropic hormone; GH = growth hormone; GTR = gross-total resection; IGF-1 = insulin-like growth factor-1; NTR = near-total resection; OGTT = oral glucose tolerance test; STR = subtotal resection; TSH = thyroid-stimulating hormone.

Article Information

Address correspondence to: Daniel F. Kelly, M.D., Brain Tumor Center & Pituitary Disorders Program, John Wayne Cancer Institute at Saint John's Health Center, 2200 Santa Monica Boulevard, Santa Monica, California 90404. email:

Please include this information when citing this paper: published online December 14, 2012; DOI: 10.3171/2012.11.JNS112020.

© AANS, except where prohibited by US copyright law.



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    Bar graph showing the number of adenoma cases (y axis) with additional tumor removed in relation to tumor size. Light gray bars represent total adenomas; dark gray bars, adenomas with additional tumor removed.



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