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      Clinical and biochemical characteristics of patients presenting with pituitary apoplexy

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          To review the clinical and biochemical characteristics and clinical outcome of patients presenting with pituitary apoplexy to a tertiary centre.


          We retrospectively reviewed the clinical features, predisposing factors, biochemistry and clinical outcome of patients presenting with pituitary apoplexy to Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust between 1991 and 2015.


          We identified 64 patients with pituitary apoplexy (more complete clinical records were available in 52 patients). The median age at presentation was 46.7 years (IQR 31.5–57.0 years). Pituitary apoplexy was the first presentation of pituitary disease in 38/52 of patients and predisposing factors were identified in 28/52. Pituitary apoplexy predominantly occurred in patients with non-functioning pituitary adenomas (47/52). Headache was most commonly described as sudden onset, severe, lateralising to the frontal or temporal regions. Symptoms of meningeal irritation were reported in 7/18 and visual abnormalities in 22/35. A pre-treatment serum cortisol <100 nmol/L was recorded in 12/31 of patients. All patients with visual disturbance had some resolution of their visual symptoms whether managed surgically (14/14) or conservatively (5/5), although pituitary endocrine function did not fully recover in any patient.


          In conclusion, these data describe the clinical features of pituitary apoplexy to aid the clinician in diagnosing this rare emergency presentation of pituitary disease. Prospective multicentre studies of the presentation of pituitary apoplexy are required to further characterise presentation and outcomes.

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          Most cited references 31

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          Prevalence of pituitary adenomas: a community-based, cross-sectional study in Banbury (Oxfordshire, UK).

          Pituitary adenomas (PAs) are associated with increased morbidity and mortality. The optimal delivery of services and the provision of care for patients with PAs require distribution of the resources proportionate to the impact of these conditions on the community. Currently, the resource allocation for PAs in the health care system is lacking a reliable and an up-to-date epidemiological background that would reflect the recent advances in the diagnostic technologies, leading to the earlier recognition of these tumours. To determine the prevalence, the diagnostic delay and the characteristics of patients with PA in a well-defined geographical area of the UK (Banbury, Oxfordshire). Sixteen general practitioner (GP) surgeries covering the area of Banbury and a total population of 89 334 inhabitants were asked to participate in the study (data confirmed on 31 July 2006). Fourteen surgeries with a total of 81,449 inhabitants (91% of the study population) agreed to take part. All cases of PAs were found following an exhaustive computer database search of agreed terms by the staff of each Practice and data on age, gender, presenting manifestations and their duration, imaging features at diagnosis, history of multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 and family history of PA were collected. A total of 63 patients with PA were identified amongst the study population of 81,149, with a prevalence of 77.6 PA cases/100,000 inhabitants (prolactinomas; PRLoma: 44.4, nonfunctioning PAs: 22.2, acromegaly; ACRO: 8.6, corticotroph adenoma: 1.2 and unknown functional status; UFS: 1.2/100,000 inhabitants). The distribution of each PA subtype was for PRLoma 57%, nonfunctioning PAs 28%, ACRO 11%, corticotroph adenoma 2% and UFS 2%. The median age at diagnosis and the duration of symptoms until diagnosis (in years) were for PRLoma 32.0 and 1.5, nonfunctioning PAs 51.5 and 0.8, ACRO 47 and 4.5 and corticotroph adenoma 57 and 7, respectively. PRLoma was the most frequent PA diagnosed up to the age of 60 years (0-20 years: 75% and 20-60 years: 61% of PAs) and nonfunctioning PA after the age of 60 years (60% of PAs). Nonfunctioning PAs dominated in men (57% of all men with PA) and PRLoma in women (76% of all women with PA). Five patients (7.9%) presented with classical pituitary apoplexy, with a prevalence of 6.2 cases/100,000 inhabitants. Based on a well-defined population in Banbury (Oxfordshire, UK), we have shown that PAs have a fourfold increased prevalence than previously thought; our data confirm that PAs have a higher burden on the Health Care System and optimal resource distribution for both clinical care and research activities aiming to improve the outcome of these patients are needed.
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            UK guidelines for the management of pituitary apoplexy.

            Classical pituitary apoplexy is a medical emergency and rapid replacement with hydrocortisone maybe life saving. It is a clinical syndrome characterized by the sudden onset of headache, vomiting, visual impairment and decreased consciousness caused by haemorrhage and/or infarction of the pituitary gland. It is associated with the sudden onset of headache accompanied or not by neurological symptoms involving the second, third, fourth and sixth cranial nerves. If diagnosed patients should be referred to a multidisciplinary team comprising, amongst others, a neurosurgeon and an endocrinologist. Apart from patients with worsening neurological symptoms in whom surgery is indicated, it is unclear currently for the majority of patients whether conservative or surgical management carries the best outcome. Post apoplexy, there needs to be careful monitoring for recurrence of tumour growth. It is suggested that further trials be carried out into the management of pituitary apoplexy to optimize treatment. © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
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              Classical pituitary apoplexy: clinical features, management and outcome.

              The term classical pituitary apoplexy describes a clinical syndrome characterized by sudden headache, vomiting, visual impairment and meningismus caused by the rapid enlargement of a pituitary adenoma usually due to haemorrhagic infarction of the tumour. Most published reports looking at the clinical features and management of pituitary apoplexy have not differentiated between patients with clinical and subclinical apoplexy, the latter diagnosed at surgery. Furthermore, little is reported on the clinical outcome, in particular visual and endocrinological, and the role of radiotherapy. The purpose of this study was to observe not only the clinical presentation but also the possible predisposing events, investigations, management, clinical outcome as well as the role of radiotherapy in patients presenting with classical pituitary apoplexy. In a retrospective analysis 1985-96, the medical records of 21 male and 14 female patients (mean age 49.8 years, range 30-74) with classical pituitary apoplexy were reviewed. This represents all patients seen with this condition over the stated period. In all patients, pre- and post- operative measurements were made of FT4, FT3, TSH, PRL, LH, FSH, cortisol (0900 h), GH, oestradiol (females) and testosterone (males). Pituitary imaging was by computerized tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or both. Patients were followed for up to 11 years (mean 6.3 years: range 0.5-11). Headache (97%) was the commonest presenting symptom, followed by nausea (80%) and a reduction of visual fields (71%). Hypertension, defined as a systolic > 160 mmHg and/or a diastolic > 90 mmHg, was seen in 26% of patients. MRI correctly identified pituitary haemorrhage in 88% (n = 7), but CT scanning identified haemorrhage in only 21% (n = 6). By immunostaining criteria, null-cell adenomas were the most common tumour type (61%). Transsphenoidal surgery resulted in improvement in visual acuity in 86%. Complete restoration of visual acuity occurred in all patients operated on within 8 days but only in 46% of patients operated on after this time (9-34 days). Long-term steroid or thyroid hormone replacement was necessary in 58% and 45% of patients, respectively. Of the male patients, 43% required testosterone replacement, and long-term desmopressin therapy was required in 6%. Only two patients (6%) with tumour recurrence after transsphenoidal surgery for the initial apoplectic event, subsequently required radiotherapy. In classical pituitary apoplexy, headache is the commonest presenting symptom and hypertension may be an important predisposing factor. MRI is the imaging method of choice. Transsphenoidal surgery is safe and effective. It is indicated if there are associated abnormalities of visual acuity or visual fields because, when performed within 8 days, it resulted in significantly greater improvement in visual acuity and fields than if surgery was performed after this time. Radiotherapy is not indicated immediately as the risk of tumour recurrence is small, but careful follow-up initially with annual imaging is indicated in this group.

                Author and article information

                Endocr Connect
                Endocr Connect
                Endocrine Connections
                Bioscientifica Ltd (Bristol )
                October 2018
                22 August 2018
                : 7
                : 10
                : 1058-1066
                [1 ]Department of Investigative Medicine Imperial College London, Hammersmith Hospital, London, UK
                [2 ]Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust London, UK
                Author notes
                Correspondence should be addressed to N M Martin: n.martin@ 123456imperial.ac.uk

                *(A Abbara and S Clarke contributed equally to this work)

                © 2018 The authors

                pituitary apoplexy, pituitary adenoma, headache


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