Introduction Giant pituitary adenomas of excessive size, fibrous consistency or unfavorable geometric configuration may be unresectable through conventional operative approaches. We present our select case series for operative resection and long-term follow-up for these unusual tumors, employing both a staged procedure and a combined transsphenoidal-transcranial above and below approach. Method A retrospective chart review was performed on patients operated via the staged, and combined approaches by the senior author (J.N·B.). Preoperative characteristics and postoperative outcomes were reviewed. A detailed description of the operative technique and perioperative management is provided. Results Between 1993 and 1996, two patients harboring giant pituitary adenomas underwent an intentionally staged resection, and between 1997 and 2006, nine patients harboring giant pituitary adenomas underwent surgery via a single-stage above and below approach. Nine patients (82%) presented with non-secreting adenomas and two patients (18%) presented with prolactinomas refractory to medical management. Gross total resection was achieved in six patients (55%), near total resection in 1 (9%), and subtotal removal in 4 (36%). Seven patients (64%) experienced visual improvement postoperatively and no major complications occurred. Long-term follow-up averaged 51.6 months. Panhypopituitarism was observed in four patients, partial hypopituitarism in four, persistent DI in two, and persistent SIADH in one. Conclusions The addition of a transcranial component to the transsphenoidal approach offers additional visualization of critical neurovascular structures during giant pituitary adenoma resection. Complications rates are similar to other series in which complex pituitary adenomas are resected by other means. The above and below approach is both safe and effective and the immediate and long-term advantages of a single-stage approach justify its utility in this select group of patients.
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