Effect of surgery and radiotherapy on visual and endocrine function in nonfunctioning pituitary adenomas

A. Colao, G. Cerbone, P. Cappabianca, D. Ferone, A. Alfieri, F. Di Salle, A. Faggiano, B. Merola, E. De Divitiis, G. Lombardi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The effect of surgery alone or followed by radiotherapy in recovering visual abnormalities, debulking tumor mass and restoring hormone impairments was evaluated in 84 patients with clinically nonfunctioning pituitary adenomas (NFPA) subjected to 1-10 yr follow-up. All patients underwent surgery via transsphenoidal (in 69) or transcranic-pterional approach (in 15). Radiotherapy was performed after surgery in 59 of 72 patients with incomplete tumor removal. The assessment of pituitary function was performed in all patients before and every 1-2 yr after surgery and/or radiotherapy. Radiological and ophthalmologic assessment was performed before and 3, 6 and 12 months after surgery, then yearly. At diagnosis, headache and visual disturbances occurred in 63 and 58 patients, respectively, while deficiency of GH, TSH, ACTH, FSH, LH and ADH was documented in 55, 7, 19, 47 and 6 patients, respectively. After surgery, gonadal function recovered in 12 women, visual disturbances improved in 43 patients (15 regained normal vision), pituitary function improved in 8 of 62 patients, worsened in 34 patients. At MRI, complete tumor removal was documented in 12 of 84 patients. After surgery alone, tumor regrowth was observed in 7 patients between 3-7 yr. After radiotherapy, vision improved in 9, remained unchanged in 49 and worsened in 1 of 59 patients. After radiotherapy, tumor regrowth was documented in 9 patients between 2-12 yr and the prevalence of hypopituitarism raised from 28.8% to 92% after 1 and 10 yr. In conclusion, surgery alone is effective only in a minority of patients (14.3%) and radiotherapy causes hypopituitarism in rather the totality of patients after 10 yr. The prevalence of tumor regrowth was similar in irradiated ones (15%) and non irradiated patients (28%; χ2, p = 0.4). Therefore, a careful radiological followup is suggested after surgery so that radiotherapy can be performed promptly on the basis of clinical data, tumor regrowth and/or invasiveness documented at histology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)284-290
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Endocrinological Investigation
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 1998


  • ACTH
  • FSH
  • GH
  • LH
  • Nonfunctioning pituitary adenomas
  • Pituitary adenomas
  • PRL
  • TSH

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology


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