Non-functioning pituitary adenomas: indications for pituitary surgery and post-surgical management



Non-functioning pituitary adenomas (NFPAs) are associated with impaired well-being, increased comorbidities, and reduced long-term survival. Data on optimal management of NFPAs around surgical treatment are scarce, and postoperative treatment and follow-up strategies have not been evaluated in prospective trials. Here, we review the preoperative, perioperative, and early postoperative management of patients with NFPAs.


We searched Medline and the Cochrane Library for articles published in English with the following items “Pituitary neoplasms AND Surgery” and “Surgery AND Hypopituitarism”. Studies containing detailed analyses of the management of NFPAs in adult patients, including pituitary surgery, endocrine care, imaging, ophthalmologic assessment and long-term outcome were reviewed.


Treatment options for NFPAs include active surveillance, surgical resection, and radiotherapy. Pituitary surgery is currently recommended as first-line treatment in patients with visual impairment due to adenomas compressing the optic nerves or chiasma. Radiotherapy is reserved for large tumor remnants or tumor recurrence following one or more surgical attempts. There is no consensus of optimal pre-, peri-, and postoperative management such as timing, frequency, and duration of endocrine, radiologic, and ophthalmologic assessments as well as management of smaller tumor remnants or tumor recurrence.


In clinical practice, there is a great variation in the treatment and follow-up of patients with NFPAs. We have, based on available data, suggested an optimal management strategy for patients with NFPAs in relation to pituitary surgery. Prospective trials oriented at drawing up strategies for the management of NFPAs are needed.


Non-functioning pituitary adenomas (NFPAs) are benign tumors arising from the adenohypophyseal cells characterized by the absence of clinical evidence of hormonal hypersecretion. According to recent epidemiological data, the estimated prevalence of NFPAs is 7–41.3 cases/1,00,000 and the annual incidence is 0.65–2.34 cases/1,00,000 [1,2,3]. The incidence of NFPAs has increased over time, most probably due to an increasing number of incidentally discovered adenomas on brain imaging performed for unrelated reasons (pituitary incidentalomas) [4].

According to the 4th edition of the World Health Organization classification of endocrine tumours (WHO 2017), NFPAs can be categorized into eight subtypes: silent gonadotroph, corticotroph, somatotroph, thyrotroph, lactotroph, plurihormonal Pit-1, null-cell, and double/triple NFPAs. This classification takes into account the immunohistochemical expression of pituitary hormones and pituitary-specific transcriptional factors. However, the correlation between histopathological factors and clinical behavior of NFPAs remains unclear and reliable immunohistochemical predictors of aggressiveness in NFPAs are still lacking [5, 6].

Clinical features due to NFPAs vary greatly. Some patients are asymptomatic while others have signs and symptoms due to mass effects on surrounding structures, causing headache, visual defects, and/or hypopituitarism [2, 7].

Careful clinical examination as well as endocrine, radiological, and ophthalmological assessment determine the best treatment strategy. However, new molecular markers are needed in order to further personalize and optimize treatment approaches [8].

Although NFPAs are histologically benign tumors, there are data showing that patients suffering from NFPAs have increased comorbidities and excess mortality [3, 9, 10]. Tumor treatment and follow-up strategies lack evidence from randomized studies and great variation in clinical practice has been reported [11].

Herein, we review the endocrine and surgical care of patients with symptomatic NFPAs with a focus on preoperative, perioperative, and postoperative management, and put this into context with the long-term outcome of these patients.

Clinical presentation

Patients with symptomatic NFPAs commonly present with symptoms related to the mass effect on surrounding structures, including headache, visual defects, and hypopituitarism [7].

Headache is reported to be present in 16–70% of patients with pituitary adenomas [12,13,14,15]. Tumor enlargement leads to stretching of the diaphragm of the sella with activation of pain fibers within the dura mater, resulting in headache, mainly localized in the frontal and occipital regions [16, 17].

Patients with large pituitary adenomas can also present with visual impairment, classically bitemporal visual defects related to mid-chiasmal compression [18, 19]. In a recent meta-analysis including a 35-case series, the frequency of visual field deficits at diagnosis ranged between 28 and 100% [20]. NFPAs may also grow asymmetrically, leading to different patterns of visual field defects [19]. Diplopia is rare, but when present, is caused by compression of the cavernous sinus [20]. Its presence should raise a suspicion of another cause rather than a pituitary adenoma.

The mechanical compression of normal pituitary cells, pituitary stalk, and portal vessels may lead to hormone deficiencies, hyperprolactinemia, and, rarely, diabetes insipidus (DI). The prevalence of hypopituitarism at diagnosis ranges between 37 and 85%, depending on the tests and criteria used [21,22,23].

Patients with NFPAs may rarely present with pituitary apoplexy, which is a rare endocrine emergency caused by an acute infarction or hemorrhage in the tumor [24, 25]. Common clinical features include sudden severe headache, visual loss, nausea, vomiting, impaired consciousness, symptoms of meningeal irritation, and acute endocrine dysfunction [26]. The optimal management of this acute and potentially life-threatening condition is challenging; the role and timing of neurosurgical decompression is still controversial [27].

Preoperative evaluation

Endocrine assessment

According to clinical guidelines, all patients with pituitary macroadenomas and larger microadenomas (6–9 mm), with or without symptoms, should undergo laboratory assessment in order to detect hormonal hypersecretion or hypopituitarism [28, 29] (Table 1).

Table 1 Summary of the pre-, peri- and postoperative management of NFPAs

Growth hormone (GH) deficiency and hypogonadism are the most commonly found deficits followed by central hypothyroidism and secondary adrenal insufficiency [7, 30]. Panhypopituitarism is present at diagnosis in 6–29% of patients [31]. DI is a rare finding at diagnosis of NFPAs. Therefore, in patients presenting with DI and a pituitary mass, other tumors than NFPAs should be considered [32,33,34,35].

At diagnosis, 25–65% of patients with NFPAs present with hyperprolactinemia caused by pituitary stalk compression [12, 21, 30]. It is important to distinguish between a prolactinoma and a NFPA since treatment strategies for these two conditions differ, i.e. dopamine agonist therapy being the treatment of choice for prolactinomas [36]. In a retrospective analysis of 117 patients with prolactinomas and NFPAs, it was found that NFPA patients most often had a prolactin (PRL) level < 100 ng/mL (~ 2000 IU/L) whereas levels > 250 ng/mL (~ 5000 IU/L) were exclusively seen in patients with prolactinomas [37]. There is a large grey zone between these two thresholds where individual clinical judgement needs to be used when deciding the primary choice of treatment.

Radiological assessment

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with and without gadolinium contrast is the gold standard for morphological assessment of pituitary adenomas [38]. NFPAs usually appear hypointense or isointense on T1-weighted images. After contrast administration, pituitary adenomas exhibit delayed enhancement, appearing hypointense in relation to the pituitary gland, which has an earlier and more intense enhancement. In the case of atypical radiological findings, other diseases should be considered, e.g. hypophysitis, meningioma, granulomatous disorders, metastases [39]. MRI is crucial for staging and surgical planning since it shows, with high accuracy, the relationship of the adenoma to the chiasma and to the carotid arteries as well as the degree of invasion into the cavernous sinuses.

Based on size, pituitary adenomas can be classified into microadenomas (< 1 cm), macroadenomas (≥ 1 cm), and giant adenomas (≥ 4 cm). Another clinically and prognostically relevant radiological classification was introduced by Knosp and colleagues [40], which was revised in 2015 [41]. The classification consists of a grading system of parasellar adenoma extension, with grade 0 corresponding to an adenoma without any parasellar extension and grade 4 to the total encasement of the intracavernous carotid artery. The parasellar adenoma extension is considered to be a negative prognostic factor for surgical outcome [41].

Ophthalmologic assessment

A complete neuro-ophthalmologic evaluation, including visual field and acuity examination, is required in case of visual complaints or if the tumor abuts the optic chiasm or optic tract on MRI. Ophthalmologic assessment should also be performed in order to be able to judge the operative impact on any pre-operative abnormalities [42].

In patients with microadenomas or macroadenomas remote from the chiasma and cavernous sinus, neuro-ophthalmological assessment is not required [43]. In patients with NFPAs in contact with the optic chiasm, strict ophthalmologic surveillance should be performed in the case of conservative management. In these patients, the onset of new visual defects is a strong indication for surgery [11, 44].

Indication for surgery and perioperative management

Treatment options for NFPAs include active surveillance, surgical treatment, and radiotherapy. In patients with large NFPAs and visual impairment or other signs and symptoms related to tumor compression, transsphenoidal surgery is the recommended first-line treatment [28] (Fig. 1). Radiotherapy, as a primary therapy, is only considered in cases where surgery is contraindicated, such as in patients with other serious co-morbidities or in inoperable cases [45].

Fig. 1

Indication for pituitary surgery in patients with non-functioning pituitary adenomas. Surgery is currently recommended in patients with adenomas abutting or compressing the chiasma with visual field deficits. In the absence of visual impairment, a conservative management may be considered. In these cases, an individualized surveillance including hormonal, radiologic, and ophthalmologic assessment is suggested. *Hypopituitarism and headache alone are not a strong indication for surgery because improvement in pituitary function and relief from headache cannot be guaranteed. Therefore, treatment decision should be individualized and based on clinical context and patient preference

The goal of surgical treatment is to provide symptom relief, preserve the surrounding neural structures, and prevent deterioration of vision and pituitary function as well as to reverse any functional impact on visual nerves, chiasma, and the pituitary gland.

Symptomatic non-functioning pituitary adenoma

Surgery is the recommended treatment in patients with visual field deficits or other visual abnormalities, adenomas abutting or compressing the optic nerves or chiasm, and in patients with pituitary apoplexy with visual disturbances [28]. In the absence of visual impairment, the optimal treatment choice is still a matter of debate, especially in patients presenting with hypopituitarism, headache, or tumors close to the chiasma. Surgery may improve pituitary function in up to 30% of patients with pre-existing hypopituitarism [46], but the risk of new hormone deficiency following surgery is 2–15% [47, 48]. Therefore, hypopituitarism alone is not an indication for surgical treatment. Unremitting headache may be an indication for surgery even though relief cannot be guaranteed (Fig. 1).

Asymptomatic non-functioning pituitary adenomas

Surgical resection of non-functioning microadenomas is not indicated since tumor growth is rare (3–13%) with less than 5% growing > 1 cm during long-term follow-up [43, 49,50,51]. Management of non-functioning microadenomas is outside the scope of this review.

Management strategies of asymptomatic non-functioning macroadenomas vary greatly [52, 53]. The median rate of tumor enlargement in macroadenomas has been reported to be 0.6 mm/year [11]. Conservative management is recommended for macroadenomas not reaching the optic chiasm with regular surveillance of tumor status and endocrine function [18] (Fig. 1). However, treatment decisions should be individualized and based on age, pituitary function, and patient preference [52]. Surgery may be favored in younger patients given the higher lifetime probability of tumor growth and discouraged in older patients with comorbidities and risk of surgical complications [54].

Despite NFPAs usually have a slow growth rate, some may enlarge and become symptomatic. Biochemical evaluation for hypopituitarism should therefore be considered every 6–12 months during conservative management because remaining pituitary function may deteriorate by tumor enlargement [11, 28]. Radiological assessment by MRI should be repeated within 6–12 months after initial tumor detection; if no progression is detected, MRI can be performed less often [28]. The timing of visual field follow-up usually depends on the distance between the adenoma and the optic chiasm [54].

Perioperative endocrine care

Patients with confirmed secondary adrenal insufficiency should be adequately treated with glucocorticoid (GC) replacement therapy and stress GC doses should be administered during the perioperative period [55, 56] (Table 1). Perioperative GC therapy is also frequently used in patients with intact hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) function. The rationale is to cover these patients in case adrenal insufficiency develops during the surgical procedure [55, 56]. Cortisol response to major surgical stress has been shown to last for 48 h in healthy subjects [57]. Based on this, it has been suggested to discontinue GC therapy 48 h after surgery [55, 58]. However, in many centers, GC therapy is administered in tapering doses and then discontinued when proper re-evaluation of HPA has been performed [56].

Patients with preoperative overt central hypothyroidism should receive thyroxine replacement therapy before surgery. Patients with severe hypothyroidism have increased risk of surgical complications [59]. Therefore, in case of non-emergency surgery, it is suggested to wait until thyroxine replacement therapy has been initiated and optimized [56].

Surgical technique

The current standard technique for most NFPAs is endoscopy or microscopy assisted transsphenoidal surgery (TSS), while the transcranial approach is used for predominantly suprasellar tumors which lack significant intrasellar portions [60]. The endoscopic technique is to date widely used. However, from a global viewpoint, the majority of TSS is still performed microsurgically. Although the microscopic and endoscopic techniques have been available side by side for more than 20 years, there is still no convincing proof for superiority of one or the other. Thus, the controversial discussion of which visualization technique is associated with a higher rate of gross total resection and a lower risk of complications continues [61, 62].

Intraoperative MRI is being increasingly introduced into pituitary surgery. Intraoperative imaging shows the tumor status during the surgery, making it possible to continue surgical resection of a tumor remnant. Hypothetically, intraoperative MRI may improve surgical outcomes. However, the usefulness of the technology is still controversial, with some studies reporting a higher rate of gross total resection [63, 64] but others showing no difference [65].

Surgical outcomes and complications

Gross total resection is achieved in 60–73% of patients with NFPAs [61]. In a recent meta-analysis on NFPA patients, TSS was associated with 1% mortality [46]. Postoperative complications such as cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leakage, fistula, meningitis, vascular injury, persistent DI, or new visual field defect occurred in ≤ 5% of patients [46]. Surgical complications are reported to be less frequent with higher-volume surgeons or hospitals [66]. The risk of CSF leakage is increased in patients with large adenomas with suprasellar extension, intraoperative CSF leakage, repeat TSS, and high body mass index [67, 68].

Postoperative management

There is a lack of evidence on timing, frequency, and duration of postoperative endocrine, radiologic, and ophthalmologic assessments. However, recent reviews offer practical advice during the postoperative management of NFPAs [69, 70]. Most studies describe postoperative endocrine evaluation 4–8 weeks after the surgical procedure and others 2–6 months postoperatively.

In the early postoperative phase, patients should be carefully monitored for potential surgical complications, including sellar hematoma, CSF leakage, meningitis, hydrocephalus, and epistaxis. If neurological symptoms, significant rhinorrhea, or new visual impairments occur after surgery, an early postoperative computerized tomography or sellar MRI should be performed [71]. Potential endocrine complications include acute adrenal insufficiency and electrolyte abnormalities. Unrecognized secondary adrenal insufficiency in the postoperative period can result in adrenal crises and even death [72]. Morning cortisol levels, electrolytes, and urine production should be carefully monitored in the early postoperative period [73, 74] (Table 1).

Postoperative endocrine assessment

Transient syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion (SIADH)

SIADH may occur within the first 3–7 days postoperatively, with an incidence ranging from 4 to 20% [75]. Transient SIADH is due to iatrogenic manipulation of the posterior pituitary gland resulting in excessive antidiuretic hormone (ADH) release [76, 77]. In rare cases, it may result in severe, life-threatening, acute hyponatremia [75].

Treatment strategies include fluid restriction, hypertonic saline administration, or vasopressin two receptor antagonist treatment [77]. It is important to avoid excessive administration of intravenous fluids in the postoperative period and prophylactic fluid restriction is recommended by some during the first 10 days after surgery in order to reduce SIADH frequency or minimize the degree of hyponatremia due to SIADH [75, 77, 78].

Diabetes insipidus

DI occurs in 18–31% of patients after pituitary surgery [77, 79]. Several factors are associated with the increased risk of postoperative DI, including male sex, young age, large pituitary mass, CSF leak, and administration of high perioperative glucocorticoid doses [77, 80]. In most patients, the disease is transient, being caused by the temporary dysfunction of ADH-secreting neurons. It usually occurs 24–48 h postoperatively and resolves when ADH-secreting cells recover their normal function [77].

Triphasic DI occurs in 3–4% of patients. The first phase is characterized by DI (usually 5–7 days) due to a partial or complete posterior pituitary dysfunction. The second phase is caused by an uncontrolled release of ADH leading to SIADH, which usually lasts 2–14 days. Finally, the last phase occurs if > 80–90% of the ADH-secreting cells have degenerated, which leads to permanent DI [77].

Postoperative DI should be suspected if polyuria (≥ 3 L per day) and polydipsia occur in combination with low urine osmolality. Serum hyperosmolality and hypernatremia strongly support the diagnosis of DI. In this clinical context, a water deprivation test is not needed [81, 82]. A urine osmolality < 300 mOsm/kg and subsequent positive response to ADH confirms the diagnosis of central DI [82].

In patients who are able to drink in response to thirst and when sodium levels remain within the normal range, no treatment is needed. In other cases, treatment with desmopressin may be required [83]. In treated patients, urine output and osmolality, as well as serum sodium levels, should be monitored regularly to avoid hyponatremia. Because postoperative DI can be transient, each dose of desmopressin should be administered after the recurrence of polyuria and thirst. This approach allows recognition of restored ADH secretion and transient DI in the early and late postoperative phases [73, 74].

Hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal axis

Some trials have shown that immediate postoperative morning cortisol level is a reliable marker of HPA axis function and accurately predicts postoperative secondary adrenal insufficiency. Marko et al. [84] studied 100 patients undergoing pituitary surgery and found that postoperative cortisol level ≥ 15 µg/dL (≥ 417 nmol/L using an immunoassay) was a sensitive and accurate predictor of normal postoperative HPA axis function, with a positive predictive value of 99%. In agreement, Auchus et al. [58] examined pituitary function in 28 NFPA patients before and after TSS, finding that morning cortisol level is a reliable marker of HPA axis function and provocative testing should be reserved for selected patients. In case of diagnostic doubts, serial morning cortisol evaluation seems to be useful [58, 85, 86]. Ambrosi et al. [87] has suggested that low serum dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate is a more reliable marker than basal morning cortisol for the assessment of HPA function [87] but this is rarely used in clinical praxis.

The insulin tolerance test (ITT) is considered the gold standard among provocative tests, since it evaluates the integrity of the whole HPA axis. However, ITT may have serious side effects and it is contraindicated in older patients and in patients with comorbidities such as epilepsy and ischemic heart disease [88].

The high-dose (250 µg) short Synacthen test (SST) is widely used to test HPA axis function. Adrenocorticotropic hormone deficiency gradually leads to adrenal atrophy, but the length of time over which this happens remains unclear. Concerns have therefore been raised on the reliability of SST immediately after pituitary surgery because there may be a normal response to SST despite having secondary adrenal insufficiency [89]. Furthermore, some studies have reported that HPA axis dysfunction in the early postoperative period may normalize 1–3 months after surgery, suggesting that neither SST nor ITT is helpful immediately after surgery and patients should be tested later [90, 91]. Some studies suggest that low-dose (1 µg) SST is more concordant with ITT than the high-dose (250 µg) SST in the early postoperative period [90], while other studies do not support this finding [89, 92].

Hydrocortisone is the most commonly used glucocorticoid replacement in patients with confirmed secondary adrenal insufficiency. A typical starting dose consists of 10–12.5 mg/day, which is then titrated based on clinical features. In patients with partial adrenal insufficiency, the use of conventional replacement doses may lead to excessive GC exposure and should be avoided. Whether the optimal management of partial adrenal insufficiency is to use lower doses (hydrocortisone 5–10 mg) or only use stress doses when needed is unclear [93].

Munro et al. [94] reported that approximately one in six patients with secondary adrenal insufficiency recover adrenal function, even up to 5 years after surgery [94]. Regular re-evaluations should therefore be performed, at least during the first 6–12 months postoperatively, by using morning serum cortisol before first morning dose and provocative tests when needed to prevent unnecessary GC replacement therapy.

Hypothalamus–pituitary–thyroid axis

The frequency of central hypothyroidism in NFPA patients varies from 18 to 43% preoperatively, and 16–57% postoperatively [31, 47, 48]. The diagnosis of central hypothyroidism is mainly biochemical, based on finding a low serum free thyroxine (FT4) concentration in combination with inappropriately low, normal, or only mildly elevated serum thyrotropin (TSH) concentration [95]. Neither serum triiodothyronine (FT3) level nor the thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) test is considered a reliable test of central hypothyroidism [95,96,97]. The diagnosis is further complicated by the fact that some patients with low-normal FT4 concentration may have mild central hypothyroidism [95]. In these patients, FT4 concentrations should be followed and thyroxine replacement initiated if FT4 level decreases by 20% or if symptoms develop [98]. In addition, it is important to keep in mind that GH-deficient patients with low normal FT4 have increased risk of developing central hypothyroidism after GH therapy has been initiated. These patients should receive thyroxine if serum FT4 level decreases below the reference range [99].

Hypothalamus-pituitary–gonadal axis

Hypogonadotropic hypogonadism is reported in half of men with NFPAs preoperatively. Pituitary surgery restores normal total serum testosterone (T) concentrations in 71% of cases [100]. The presence of low total T, with low gonadotropin concentrations on two occasions is indicative of central hypogonadism [101]. If the diagnosis is doubtful, assessment of sex hormone-binding globulin and free T should be performed [101].

Premenopausal women with hypogonadotropic hypogonadism frequently present with menstrual irregularities, amenorrhea, impaired ovulation, and infertility. Low serum estradiol levels with non-raised gonadotropin levels are needed for diagnosis [56]. Preoperatively, 25% of women with NFPAs have hypogonadism [102]. In 15% of women with NFPA, hypogonadism improves following pituitary surgery [102].

Somatotropic axis

GH deficiency (GHD) is described in 79% of NFPA patients in the early postoperative period [103]. Recovery of the somatotropic axis function has been reported within 1–2 years after surgery and this occurs more commonly in younger patients and in patients with isolated GHD [103].

It is important to note that provocative testing of the somatotropic axis should be performed only after other hormone deficiencies have been adequately replaced. Therefore, testing of the somatotropic axis sooner than 6–12 months after surgery is not recommended.

Insulin growth factor-1 (IGF-1) levels are not reliable for assessment of GHD, as 20% of patients with GHD have normal IGF-1 levels [104]. Instead, patients with suspected GHD should be evaluated with a provocative test [105]. The ITT test is considered the gold standard and it allows to assess both the somatotropic axis and the HPA axis. The growth hormone-releasing hormone-arginine test is generally well tolerated and has therefore gained wider use [104,105,106]. In addition, recent studies have showed that macimorelin, an orally active GH secretagogue receptor agonist, is an accurate and safe diagnostic test for GHD diagnosis compared to ITT [107, 108]. In patients with three other pituitary hormone deficits, together with a low IGF-1, a stimulation test for GHD is not needed [56].

Postoperative radiological assessment

Direct postoperative MRI can be misleading due to debris, blood, and packing material following the surgical procedure. Therefore, MRI is usually performed 3–6 months after surgery, when most of the postoperative changes have disappeared [7, 52, 109, 110]. According to recent studies, early MRI has nowadays significantly higher sensitivity and specificity for detecting residual tumor than previously reported, providing valuable information to guide future care [111, 112]. The intervals for further radiological follow-up should be decided based on individual characteristics such as residual tumor size and distance from the optic chiasm.

Postoperative ophthalmologic assessment

In patients with decreased visual acuity preoperatively, postoperative overall improvement is recorded in 68% of cases, whilst 5% deteriorate [20]. Patients with visual field deficit have better prognosis, with an overall improvement in 81%, a complete recovery in 40%, and a deterioration in only 2% [20]. Longer duration of visual field deficits as well as severity of visual symptoms have been associated with worse postoperative visual outcomes [113,114,115,116].

Visual defects improve progressively after surgical treatment for NFPAs, especially during the first postoperative year [117]. It has been suggested that visual examination should be performed 3 months after surgery, then every 4–6 months until visual function stabilizes [42]. Annual assessment may then be performed and individualized depending on the visual status and the size and distribution of any tumor remnant [42].

Long-term aspects of management

Patients with NFPAs have a lower chance of remission than patients with functioning pituitary adenomas [118]. NFPAs may progress after surgical treatment, with regrowth rates of 15–66% in NFPA patients treated with surgery alone and 2–28% in those treated with surgery and radiotherapy [119, 120]. Therefore, long-term radiologic surveillance after treatment of NFPAs is recommended. Recurrence rate of NFPAs peaks between 1 and 5 years after surgery and decreases after 10 years [118]. Therefore, 10 or more years of postoperative imaging is indicated, with some studies suggesting a lifelong monitoring, in particular in patients with tumor remnants [119,120,121].

No convincing prognostic factors for NFPA recurrence have been found so far. Roelfsema et al. [118] have showed that clinical factors such as age, sex, tumor size, and tumor invasion have limited predictive value for tumor progression. On the other hand, Ki-67 has been described as an independent cellular marker of tumor progression and recurrence [122, 123]. Recently, Raverot et al. [124] have suggested a classification of pituitary tumors into five grades that can be used by clinicians to predict tumor behavior postoperatively. This grading system is based on predictor factors, such as tumor invasion on MRI, immunohistochemical profile, mitotic index, Ki-67, and p53 positivity that can be used to identify patients with high risk of tumor recurrence or progression [124].

According to the recent WHO classification, silent corticotroph tumors (e.g. approximately 15% of all NFPAs), and sparsely granulated somatotroph tumors (e.g. circa 2% of all NFPAs) are usually more aggressive since they tend to have an invasive growth and a high recurrence rate [5]. Furthermore, Lee et al. have shown that the extent of resection and adjuvant treatments are independent prognostic factors for progression-free survival [125]. In another study, combination treatment with surgery and radiotherapy were found to be more effective than surgery alone in preventing tumor recurrence [46]. However, there are concerns about long-term complications of radiotherapy (e.g. hypopituitarism, radiation-induced optic neuropathy, increased risk of cerebrovascular events and secondary brain tumors) [54, 126]. Therefore, radiotherapy is usually reserved for cases with incomplete resection with histology showing high proliferative activity and recurrence after repeated surgical procedures [45, 126]. Development of new reliable diagnostic tools that could predict tumor progression rate would be helpful to better identify patients who should be treated with radiotherapy [45].

Available data suggest that medical therapy with dopamine agonist may have a positive effect in NFPA patients with tumour remnant [127, 128]. However, the efficacy of this treatment remains controversial since no randomized controlled trials have been performed so far. Finally, chemotherapy may be considered in selected patients with aggressive adenomas after failure of standard therapies [129, 130].

Despite NFPAs being considered benign tumors, patients with NFPAs have excess morbidity and modestly increased mortality, mainly related to circulatory, respiratory, and infectious diseases [3, 9, 131]. Interestingly, a reduction in mortality among women with NFPA has been observed during the last two decades [132]. This positive development could be explained by the decreasing prevalence of hypopituitarism recorded over time, that could be an effect of improved surgical techniques [132].


In this paper we have reviewed the pre-, peri- and postoperative management of patients with NFPAs. Despite being histologically benign tumors, NFPAs are associated with long-term comorbidities, impaired well-being, and reduced long-term survival. There is limited evidence of how to guide the overall management of NFPAs in relation to the surgical procedure since treatment and follow-up strategies have not been formally evaluated in prospective randomized trials. Using available published data and data from published expert statements [28, 29, 69, 70] together with our own praxis, we have suggested a structured management strategy.

Patients with NFPAs should be treated in centers of excellence for pituitary tumors [133]. Surgical treatment should be performed with a transsphenoidal approach by an expert neurosurgeon dedicated to pituitary surgery and pre- and post-operative care should be carried out by a dedicated neuroendocrinologist [133]. Careful optimization of treatment and follow-up strategies as well as a multidisciplinary approach may have a significant impact on long-term outcomes both in terms of quality of life and survival.


  1. 1.

    Tjornstrand A, Gunnarsson K, Evert M, Holmberg E, Ragnarsson O, Rosen T, Filipsson Nystrom H (2014) The incidence rate of pituitary adenomas in western Sweden for the period 2001-2011. Eur J Endocrinol 171(4):519–526.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Ntali G, Wass JA (2018) Epidemiology, clinical presentation and diagnosis of non-functioning pituitary adenomas. Pituitary 21(2):111–118.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Olsson DS, Nilsson AG, Bryngelsson IL, Trimpou P, Johannsson G, Andersson E (2015) Excess mortality in women and young adults with nonfunctioning pituitary adenoma: a swedish nationwide study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 100(7):2651–2658.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Raappana A, Koivukangas J, Ebeling T, Pirila T (2010) Incidence of pituitary adenomas in Northern Finland in 1992-2007. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 95(9):4268–4275.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Manojlovic-Gacic E, Engstrom BE, Casar-Borota O (2018) Histopathological classification of non-functioning pituitary neuroendocrine tumors. Pituitary 21(2):119–129.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Mete O, Lopes MB (2017) Overview of the 2017 WHO Classification of Pituitary Tumors. Endocr Pathol 28(3):228–243.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Chen L, White WL, Spetzler RF, Xu B (2011) A prospective study of nonfunctioning pituitary adenomas: presentation, management, and clinical outcome. J Neurooncol 102(1):129–138.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Melmed S (2016) Pituitary medicine from discovery to patient-focused outcomes. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 101(3):769–777.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Olsson DS, Bryngelsson IL, Ragnarsson O (2016) Higher incidence of morbidity in women than men with non-functioning pituitary adenoma: a Swedish nationwide study. Eur J Endocrinol 175(1):55–61.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Olsson DS, Hammarstrand C, Bryngelsson IL, Nilsson AG, Andersson E, Johannsson G, Ragnarsson O (2017) Incidence of malignant tumours in patients with a non-functioning pituitary adenoma. Endocr Relat Cancer 24(5):227–235.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Dekkers OM, Hammer S, de Keizer RJ, Roelfsema F, Schutte PJ, Smit JW, Romijn JA, Pereira AM (2007) The natural course of non-functioning pituitary macroadenomas. Eur J Endocrinol 156(2):217–224.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Arafah BM, Prunty D, Ybarra J, Hlavin ML, Selman WR (2000) The dominant role of increased intrasellar pressure in the pathogenesis of hypopituitarism, hyperprolactinemia, and headaches in patients with pituitary adenomas. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 85(5):1789–1793.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Levy MJ, Matharu MS, Meeran K, Powell M, Goadsby PJ (2005) The clinical characteristics of headache in patients with pituitary tumours. Brain 128(Pt 8):1921–1930.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Gondim JA, de Almeida JP, de Albuquerque LA, Schops M, Gomes E, Ferraz T (2009) Headache associated with pituitary tumors. J Headache Pain 10(1):15–20.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Schankin CJ, Reifferscheid AK, Krumbholz M, Linn J, Rachinger W, Langer S, Sostak P, Arzberger T, Kretzschmar H, Straube A (2012) Headache in patients with pituitary adenoma: clinical and paraclinical findings. Cephalalgia 32(16):1198–1207.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Abe T, Matsumoto K, Kuwazawa J, Toyoda I, Sasaki K (1998) Headache associated with pituitary adenomas. Headache 38(10):782–786

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Levy MJ, Jager HR, Powell M, Matharu MS, Meeran K, Goadsby PJ (2004) Pituitary volume and headache: size is not everything. Arch Neurol 61(5):721–725.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Molitch ME (2017) Diagnosis and treatment of pituitary adenomas: a review. JAMA 317(5):516–524.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Lee IH, Miller NR, Zan E, Tavares F, Blitz AM, Sung H, Yousem DM, Boland MV (2015) Visual defects in patients with pituitary adenomas: the myth of bitemporal hemianopsia. AJR Am J Roentgenol 205(5):W512–W518.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Muskens IS, Zamanipoor Najafabadi AH, Briceno V, Lamba N, Senders JT, van Furth WR, Verstegen MJT, Smith TRS, Mekary RA, Eenhorst CAE, Broekman MLD (2017) Visual outcomes after endoscopic endonasal pituitary adenoma resection: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Pituitary 20(5):539–552.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Drange MR, Fram NR, Herman-Bonert V, Melmed S (2000) Pituitary tumor registry: a novel clinical resource. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 85(1):168–174.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Nomikos P, Ladar C, Fahlbusch R, Buchfelder M (2004) Impact of primary surgery on pituitary function in patients with non-functioning pituitary adenomas—a study on 721 patients. Acta Neurochir (Wien) 146(1):27–35.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Webb SM, Rigla M, Wagner A, Oliver B, Bartumeus F (1999) Recovery of hypopituitarism after neurosurgical treatment of pituitary adenomas. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 84(10):3696–3700.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Briet C, Salenave S, Bonneville JF, Laws ER, Chanson P (2015) Pituitary apoplexy. Endocr Rev 36(6):622–645.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Nielsen EH, Lindholm J, Laurberg P, Bjerre P, Christiansen JS, Hagen C, Juul S, Jorgensen J, Kruse A, Stochholm K (2007) Nonfunctioning pituitary adenoma: incidence, causes of death and quality of life in relation to pituitary function. Pituitary 10(1):67–73.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Zhang F, Chen J, Lu Y, Ding X (2009) Manifestation, management and outcome of subclinical pituitary adenoma apoplexy. J Clin Neurosci 16(10):1273–1275.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Ayuk J, McGregor EJ, Mitchell RD, Gittoes NJ (2004) Acute management of pituitary apoplexy–surgery or conservative management? Clin Endocrinol 61(6):747–752.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Freda PU, Beckers AM, Katznelson L, Molitch ME, Montori VM, Post KD, Vance ML (2011) Pituitary incidentaloma: an endocrine society clinical practice guideline. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 96(4):894–904.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Fleseriu M, Bodach ME, Tumialan LM, Bonert V, Oyesiku NM, Patil CG, Litvack Z, Aghi MK, Zada G (2016) Congress of neurological surgeons systematic review and evidence-based guideline for pretreatment endocrine evaluation of patients with nonfunctioning pituitary adenomas. Neurosurgery 79(4):E527–E529.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Cury ML, Fernandes JC, Machado HR, Elias LL, Moreira AC, Castro M (2009) Non-functioning pituitary adenomas: clinical feature, laboratorial and imaging assessment, therapeutic management and outcome. Arq Bras Endocrinol Metabol 53(1):31–39

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Dekkers OM, Pereira AM, Roelfsema F, Voormolen JH, Neelis KJ, Schroijen MA, Smit JW, Romijn JA (2006) Observation alone after transsphenoidal surgery for nonfunctioning pituitary macroadenoma. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 91(5):1796–1801.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Chung TT, Monson JP (2000) Hypopituitarism. In: De Groot LJ, Chrousos G, Dungan K, Feingold KR, Grossman A, Hershman JM, Koch C, Korbonits M, McLachlan R, New M, Purnell J, Rebar R, Singer F, Vinik A (eds) Endotext., Inc., South Dartmouth

    Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Esposito D, Trimpou P, Giugliano D, Dehlin M, Ragnarsson O (2017) Pituitary dysfunction in granulomatosis with polyangiitis. Pituitary 20(5):594–601.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Di Iorgi N, Napoli F, Allegri AE, Olivieri I, Bertelli E, Gallizia A, Rossi A, Maghnie M (2012) Diabetes insipidus–diagnosis and management. Horm Res Paediatr 77(2):69–84.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Robertson GL (2016) Diabetes insipidus: differential diagnosis and management. Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab 30(2):205–218.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Melmed S, Casanueva FF, Hoffman AR, Kleinberg DL, Montori VM, Schlechte JA, Wass JA, Endocrine S (2011) Diagnosis and treatment of hyperprolactinemia: an endocrine society clinical practice guideline. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 96(2):273–288.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Hong JW, Lee MK, Kim SH, Lee EJ (2010) Discrimination of prolactinoma from hyperprolactinemic non-functioning adenoma. Endocrine 37(1):140–147.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    Elster AD (1993) Modern imaging of the pituitary. Radiology 187(1):1–14.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    Rand T, Lippitz P, Kink E, Huber H, Schneider B, Imhof H, Trattnig S (2002) Evaluation of pituitary microadenomas with dynamic MR imaging. Eur J Radiol 41(2):131–135

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    Knosp E, Steiner E, Kitz K, Matula C (1993) Pituitary adenomas with invasion of the cavernous sinus space: a magnetic resonance imaging classification compared with surgical findings. Neurosurgery 33(4):610–617 (Discussion 617–618)

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Micko AS, Wohrer A, Wolfsberger S, Knosp E (2015) Invasion of the cavernous sinus space in pituitary adenomas: endoscopic verification and its correlation with an MRI-based classification. J Neurosurg 122(4):803–811.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  42. 42.

    Abouaf L, Vighetto A, Lebas M (2015) Neuro-ophthalmologic exploration in non-functioning pituitary adenoma. Ann Endocrinol 76(3):210–219.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. 43.

    Molitch ME (2009) Pituitary tumours: pituitary incidentalomas. Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab 23(5):667–675.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  44. 44.

    Ryu WH, Tam S, Rotenberg B, Labib MA, Lee D, Nicolle DA, Van Uum S, Duggal N (2010) Conservative management of pituitary macroadenoma contacting the optic apparatus. Can J Neurol Sci 37(6):837–842

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. 45.

    Loeffler JS, Shih HA (2011) Radiation therapy in the management of pituitary adenomas. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 96(7):1992–2003.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  46. 46.

    Murad MH, Fernandez-Balsells MM, Barwise A, Gallegos-Orozco JF, Paul A, Lane MA, Lampropulos JF, Natividad I, Perestelo-Perez L, Ponce de Leon-Lovaton PG, Albuquerque FN, Carey J, Erwin PJ, Montori VM (2010) Outcomes of surgical treatment for nonfunctioning pituitary adenomas: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Clin Endocrinol 73(6):777–791.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. 47.

    Comtois R, Beauregard H, Somma M, Serri O, Aris-Jilwan N, Hardy J (1991) The clinical and endocrine outcome to trans-sphenoidal microsurgery of nonsecreting pituitary adenomas. Cancer 68(4):860–866

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  48. 48.

    Wichers-Rother M, Hoven S, Kristof RA, Bliesener N, Stoffel-Wagner B (2004) Non-functioning pituitary adenomas: endocrinological and clinical outcome after transsphenoidal and transcranial surgery. Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes 112(6):323–327.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  49. 49.

    Fernandez-Balsells MM, Murad MH, Barwise A, Gallegos-Orozco JF, Paul A, Lane MA, Lampropulos JF, Natividad I, Perestelo-Perez L, Ponce de Leon-Lovaton PG, Erwin PJ, Carey J, Montori VM (2011) Natural history of nonfunctioning pituitary adenomas and incidentalomas: a systematic review and metaanalysis. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 96(4):905–912.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  50. 50.

    Sanno N, Oyama K, Tahara S, Teramoto A, Kato Y (2003) A survey of pituitary incidentaloma in Japan. Eur J Endocrinol 149(2):123–127

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  51. 51.

    Karavitaki N, Collison K, Halliday J, Byrne JV, Price P, Cudlip S, Wass JA (2007) What is the natural history of nonoperated nonfunctioning pituitary adenomas? Clin Endocrinol 67(6):938–943.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  52. 52.

    Dekkers OM, Pereira AM, Romijn JA (2008) Treatment and follow-up of clinically nonfunctioning pituitary macroadenomas. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 93(10):3717–3726.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  53. 53.

    Reincke M, Allolio B, Saeger W, Menzel J, Winkelmann W (1990) The ‘incidentaloma’ of the pituitary gland Is neurosurgery required? JAMA 263(20):2772–2776

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  54. 54.

    Molitch ME (2008) Nonfunctioning pituitary tumors and pituitary incidentalomas. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am 37(1):151–171.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  55. 55.

    Inder WJ, Hunt PJ (2002) Glucocorticoid replacement in pituitary surgery: guidelines for perioperative assessment and management. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 87(6):2745–2750.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  56. 56.

    Fleseriu M, Hashim IA, Karavitaki N, Melmed S, Murad MH, Salvatori R, Samuels MH (2016) Hormonal replacement in hypopituitarism in adults: an endocrine society clinical practice guideline. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 101(11):3888–3921.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  57. 57.

    Clark PM, Neylon I, Raggatt PR, Sheppard MC, Stewart PM (1998) Defining the normal cortisol response to the short Synacthen test: implications for the investigation of hypothalamic-pituitary disorders. Clin Endocrinol 49(3):287–292

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  58. 58.

    Auchus RJ, Shewbridge RK, Shepherd MD (1997) Which patients benefit from provocative adrenal testing after transsphenoidal pituitary surgery? Clin Endocrinol 46(1):21–27

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  59. 59.

    Ladenson PW, Levin AA, Ridgway EC, Daniels GH (1984) Complications of surgery in hypothyroid patients. Am J Med 77(2):261–266

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  60. 60.

    de Divitiis E, Laws ER, Giani U, Iuliano SL, de Divitiis O, Apuzzo ML (2015) The current status of endoscopy in transsphenoidal surgery: an international survey. World Neurosurg 83(4):447–454.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  61. 61.

    Yu SY, Du Q, Yao SY, Zhang KN, Wang J, Zhu Z, Jiang XB (2018) Outcomes of endoscopic and microscopic transsphenoidal surgery on non-functioning pituitary adenomas: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Cell Mol Med 22(3):2023–2027.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  62. 62.

    Almutairi RD, Muskens IS, Cote DJ, Dijkman MD, Kavouridis VK, Crocker E, Ghazawi K, Broekman MLD, Smith TR, Mekary RA, Zaidi HA (2018) Gross total resection of pituitary adenomas after endoscopic vs. microscopic transsphenoidal surgery: a meta-analysis. Acta Neurochir 160(5):1005–1021.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  63. 63.

    Coburger J, Konig R, Seitz K, Bazner U, Wirtz CR, Hlavac M (2014) Determining the utility of intraoperative magnetic resonance imaging for transsphenoidal surgery: a retrospective study. J Neurosurg 120(2):346–356.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  64. 64.

    Berkmann S, Schlaffer S, Nimsky C, Fahlbusch R, Buchfelder M (2014) Intraoperative high-field MRI for transsphenoidal reoperations of nonfunctioning pituitary adenoma. J Neurosurg 121(5):1166–1175.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  65. 65.

    Tandon V, Raheja A, Suri A, Chandra PS, Kale SS, Kumar R, Garg A, Kalaivani M, Pandey RM, Sharma BS (2017) Randomized trial for superiority of high field strength intra-operative magnetic resonance imaging guided resection in pituitary surgery. J Clin Neurosci 37:96–103.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  66. 66.

    Barker FG 2nd, Klibanski A, Swearingen B (2003) Transsphenoidal surgery for pituitary tumors in the United States, 1996-2000: mortality, morbidity, and the effects of hospital and surgeon volume. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 88(10):4709–4719.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  67. 67.

    Dlouhy BJ, Madhavan K, Clinger JD, Reddy A, Dawson JD, O’Brien EK, Chang E, Graham SM, Greenlee JD (2012) Elevated body mass index and risk of postoperative CSF leak following transsphenoidal surgery. J Neurosurg 116(6):1311–1317.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  68. 68.

    Zhang C, Ding X, Lu Y, Hu L, Hu G (2017) Cerebrospinal fluid rhinorrhoea following transsphenoidal surgery for pituitary adenoma: experience in a Chinese centre. Acta Otorhinolaryngol Ital 37(4):303–307.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  69. 69.

    Ziu M, Dunn IF, Hess C, Fleseriu M, Bodach ME, Tumialan LM, Oyesiku NM, Patel KS, Wang R, Carter BS, Chen JY, Chen CC, Patil CG, Litvack Z, Zada G, Aghi MK (2016) Congress of neurological surgeons systematic review and evidence-based guideline on posttreatment follow-up evaluation of patients with nonfunctioning pituitary adenomas. Neurosurgery 79(4):E541–E543.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  70. 70.

    Cortet-Rudelli C, Bonneville JF, Borson-Chazot F, Clavier L, Coche Dequeant B, Desailloud R, Maiter D, Rohmer V, Sadoul JL, Sonnet E, Toussaint P, Chanson P (2015) Post-surgical management of non-functioning pituitary adenoma. Ann Endocrinol 76(3):228–238.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  71. 71.

    Woodmansee WW, Carmichael J, Kelly D, Katznelson L (2015) American association of clinical endocrinologists and american college of endocrinology disease state clinical review: postoperative management following pituitary surgery. Endocr Pract 21(7):832–838.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  72. 72.

    Burman P, Mattsson AF, Johannsson G, Hoybye C, Holmer H, Dahlqvist P, Berinder K, Engstrom BE, Ekman B, Erfurth EM, Svensson J, Wahlberg J, Karlsson FA (2013) Deaths among adult patients with hypopituitarism: hypocortisolism during acute stress, and de novo malignant brain tumors contribute to an increased mortality. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 98(4):1466–1475.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  73. 73.

    Verbalis JG (2003) Diabetes insipidus. Rev Endocr Metab Disord 4(2):177–185

    Article  Google Scholar 

  74. 74.

    Loh JA, Verbalis JG (2007) Diabetes insipidus as a complication after pituitary surgery. Nat Clin Pract Endocrinol Metab 3(6):489–494.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  75. 75.

    Burke WT, Cote DJ, Iuliano SI, Zaidi HA, Laws ER (2018) A practical method for prevention of readmission for symptomatic hyponatremia following transsphenoidal surgery. Pituitary 21(1):25–31.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  76. 76.

    Hannon MJ, Thompson CJ (2014) Neurosurgical Hyponatremia. J. Clin Med 3(4):1084–1104.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  77. 77.

    Hensen J, Henig A, Fahlbusch R, Meyer M, Boehnert M, Buchfelder M (1999) Prevalence, predictors and patterns of postoperative polyuria and hyponatraemia in the immediate course after transsphenoidal surgery for pituitary adenomas. Clin Endocrinol 50(4):431–439

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  78. 78.

    Matsuyama J, Ikeda H, Sato S, Yamamoto K, Ohashi G, Watanabe K (2014) Early water intake restriction to prevent inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion following transsphenoidal surgery: low BMI predicts postoperative SIADH. Eur J Endocrinol 171(6):711–716.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  79. 79.

    Nemergut EC, Zuo Z, Jane JA Jr, Laws ER Jr (2005) Predictors of diabetes insipidus after transsphenoidal surgery: a review of 881 patients. J Neurosurg 103(3):448–454.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  80. 80.

    Rajaratnam S, Seshadri MS, Chandy MJ, Rajshekhar V (2003) Hydrocortisone dose and postoperative diabetes insipidus in patients undergoing transsphenoidal pituitary surgery: a prospective randomized controlled study. Br J Neurosurg 17(5):437–442

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  81. 81.

    Trimpou P, Olsson DS, Ehn O, Ragnarsson O (2017) Diagnostic value of the water deprivation test in the polyuria-polydipsia syndrome. Hormones 16(4):414–422.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  82. 82.

    Fenske W, Allolio B (2012) Clinical review: current state and future perspectives in the diagnosis of diabetes insipidus: a clinical review. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 97(10):3426–3437.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  83. 83.

    Richardson DW, Robinson AG (1985) Desmopressin. Ann Intern Med 103(2):228–239

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  84. 84.

    Marko NF, Hamrahian AH, Weil RJ (2010) Immediate postoperative cortisol levels accurately predict postoperative hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function after transsphenoidal surgery for pituitary tumors. Pituitary 13(3):249–255.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  85. 85.

    Arafah BM, Kailani SH, Nekl KE, Gold RS, Selman WR (1994) Immediate recovery of pituitary function after transsphenoidal resection of pituitary macroadenomas. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 79(2):348–354.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  86. 86.

    Hout WM, Arafah BM, Salazar R, Selman W (1988) Evaluation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis immediately after pituitary adenomectomy: is perioperative steroid therapy necessary? J Clin Endocrinol Metab 66(6):1208–1212.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  87. 87.

    Ambrosi B, Bochicchio D, Peverelli S, Ferrario R, Faglia G (1992) Value of serum dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate assay in the evaluation of pituitary-adrenal insufficiency after pituitary adenomectomy. J Endocrinol Invest 15(11):827–833.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  88. 88.

    Jackson RS, Carter GD, Wise PH, Alaghband-Zadeh J (1994) Comparison of paired short synacthen and insulin tolerance tests soon after pituitary surgery. Ann Clin Biochem 31(Pt 1):46–49.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  89. 89.

    Courtney CH, McAllister AS, McCance DR, Bell PM, Hadden DR, Leslie H, Sheridan B, Atkinson AB (2000) Comparison of one week 0900 h serum cortisol, low and standard dose synacthen tests with a 4 to 6 week insulin hypoglycaemia test after pituitary surgery in assessing HPA axis. Clin Endocrinol 53(4):431–436

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  90. 90.

    Dokmetas HS, Colak R, Kelestimur F, Selcuklu A, Unluhizarci K, Bayram F (2000) A comparison between the 1-microg adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) test, the short ACTH (250 microg) test, and the insulin tolerance test in the assessment of hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis immediately after pituitary surgery. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 85(10):3713–3719.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  91. 91.

    Klose M, Lange M, Kosteljanetz M, Poulsgaard L, Feldt-Rasmussen U (2005) Adrenocortical insufficiency after pituitary surgery: an audit of the reliability of the conventional short synacthen test. Clin Endocrinol 63(5):499–505.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  92. 92.

    Park YJ, Park KS, Kim JH, Shin CS, Kim SY, Lee HK (1999) Reproducibility of the cortisol response to stimulation with the low dose (1 microg) of ACTH. Clin Endocrinol 51(2):153–158

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  93. 93.

    Higham CE, Johannsson G, Shalet SM (2016) Hypopituitarism. Lancet 388(10058):2403–2415.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  94. 94.

    Munro V, Tugwell B, Doucette S, Clarke DB, Lacroix A, Imran SA (2016) Recovery of adrenal function after chronic secondary adrenal insufficiency in patients with hypopituitarism. Clin Endocrinol 85(2):216–222.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  95. 95.

    Alexopoulou O, Beguin C, De Nayer P, Maiter D (2004) Clinical and hormonal characteristics of central hypothyroidism at diagnosis and during follow-up in adult patients. Eur J Endocrinol 150(1):1–8

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  96. 96.

    Klee GG (1996) Clinical usage recommendations and analytic performance goals for total and free triiodothyronine measurements. Clin Chem 42(1):155–159

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  97. 97.

    Faglia G, Bitensky L, Pinchera A, Ferrari C, Paracchi A, Beck-Peccoz P, Ambrosi B, Spada A (1979) Thyrotropin secretion in patients with central hypothyroidism: evidence for reduced biological activity of immunoreactive thyrotropin. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 48(6):989–998.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  98. 98.

    Koulouri O, Auldin MA, Agarwal R, Kieffer V, Robertson C, Falconer Smith J, Levy MJ, Howlett TA (2011) Diagnosis and treatment of hypothyroidism in TSH deficiency compared to primary thyroid disease: pituitary patients are at risk of under-replacement with levothyroxine. Clin Endocrinol 74(6):744–749.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  99. 99.

    Martins MR, Doin FC, Komatsu WR, Barros-Neto TL, Moises VA, Abucham J (2007) Growth hormone replacement improves thyroxine biological effects: implications for management of central hypothyroidism. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 92(11):4144–4153.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  100. 100.

    Tominaga A, Uozumi T, Arita K, Kurisu K, Yano T, Hirohata T, Eguchi K, Iida K, Kawamoto H (1996) Effects of surgery on testosterone secretion in male patients with pituitary adenomas. Endocr J 43(3):307–312

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  101. 101.

    Bhasin S, Cunningham GR, Hayes FJ, Matsumoto AM, Snyder PJ, Swerdloff RS, Montori VM, Task Force ES (2010) Testosterone therapy in men with androgen deficiency syndromes: an Endocrine Society clinical practice guideline. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 95(6):2536–2559.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  102. 102.

    Monteiro DM, Freitas P, Vieira R, Carvalho D (2017) Hypogonadotropic hypogonadism in non-functioning pituitary adenomas: impact of intervention. Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes 125(6):368–376.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  103. 103.

    Kobayashi N, Yamaguchi-Okada M, Horiguchi K, Fukuhara N, Nishioka H, Yamada S (2018) Postoperative growth hormone dynamics in clinically nonfunctioning pituitary adenoma. Endocr J 65(8):827–832.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  104. 104.

    Molitch ME, Clemmons DR, Malozowski S, Merriam GR, Vance ML, Endocrine S (2011) Evaluation and treatment of adult growth hormone deficiency: an Endocrine Society clinical practice guideline. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 96(6):1587–1609.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  105. 105.

    Biller BM, Samuels MH, Zagar A, Cook DM, Arafah BM, Bonert V, Stavrou S, Kleinberg DL, Chipman JJ, Hartman ML (2002) Sensitivity and specificity of six tests for the diagnosis of adult GH deficiency. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 87(5):2067–2079.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  106. 106.

    Aimaretti G, Corneli G, Razzore P, Bellone S, Baffoni C, Arvat E, Camanni F, Ghigo E (1998) Comparison between insulin-induced hypoglycemia and growth hormone (GH)-releasing hormone + arginine as provocative tests for the diagnosis of GH deficiency in adults. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 83(5):1615–1618.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  107. 107.

    Garcia JM, Biller BMK, Korbonits M, Popovic V, Luger A, Strasburger CJ, Chanson P, Medic-Stojanoska M, Schopohl J, Zakrzewska A, Pekic S, Bolanowski M, Swerdloff R, Wang C, Blevins T, Marcelli M, Ammer N, Sachse R, Yuen KCJ (2018) Macimorelin as a diagnostic test for adult GH deficiency. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 103(8):3083–3093.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  108. 108.

    Garcia JM, Swerdloff R, Wang C, Kyle M, Kipnes M, Biller BM, Cook D, Yuen KC, Bonert V, Dobs A, Molitch ME, Merriam GR (2013) Macimorelin (AEZS-130)-stimulated growth hormone (GH) test: validation of a novel oral stimulation test for the diagnosis of adult GH deficiency. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 98(6):2422–2429.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  109. 109.

    Berkmann S, Schlaffer S, Buchfelder M (2013) Tumor shrinkage after transsphenoidal surgery for nonfunctioning pituitary adenoma. J Neurosurg 119(6):1447–1452.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  110. 110.

    Kremer P, Forsting M, Ranaei G, Wuster C, Hamer J, Sartor K, Kunze S (2002) Magnetic resonance imaging after transsphenoidal surgery of clinically non-functional pituitary macroadenomas and its impact on detecting residual adenoma. Acta Neurochir 144(5):433–443.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  111. 111.

    Patel KS, Kazam J, Tsiouris AJ, Anand VK, Schwartz TH (2014) Utility of early postoperative high-resolution volumetric magnetic resonance imaging after transsphenoidal pituitary tumor surgery. World Neurosurg 82(5):777–780.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  112. 112.

    Stofko DL, Nickles T, Sun H, Dehdashti AR (2014) The value of immediate postoperative MR imaging following endoscopic endonasal pituitary surgery. Acta Neurochir 156(1):133–140. (Discussion 140)

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  113. 113.

    Barzaghi LR, Medone M, Losa M, Bianchi S, Giovanelli M, Mortini P (2012) Prognostic factors of visual field improvement after trans-sphenoidal approach for pituitary macroadenomas: review of the literature and analysis by quantitative method. Neurosurg Rev 35(3):369–378. (Discussion 378–369)

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  114. 114.

    Gnanalingham KK, Bhattacharjee S, Pennington R, Ng J, Mendoza N (2005) The time course of visual field recovery following transphenoidal surgery for pituitary adenomas: predictive factors for a good outcome. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 76(3):415–419.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  115. 115.

    Kristof RA, Kirchhofer D, Handzel D, Neuloh G, Schramm J, Mueller CA, Eter N (2010) Functional impairments caused by chiasma syndromes prior to and following transsphenoidal pituitary adenoma surgery. Acta Neurochir 152(8):1283–1290.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  116. 116.

    Marcus M, Vitale S, Calvert PC, Miller NR (1991) Visual parameters in patients with pituitary adenoma before and after transsphenoidal surgery. Aust N Z J Ophthalmol 19(2):111–118

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  117. 117.

    Dekkers OM, de Keizer RJ, Roelfsema F, Vd Klaauw AA, Honkoop PJ, van Dulken H, Smit JW, Romijn JA, Pereira AM (2007) Progressive improvement of impaired visual acuity during the first year after transsphenoidal surgery for non-functioning pituitary macroadenoma. Pituitary 10(1):61–65.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  118. 118.

    Roelfsema F, Biermasz NR, Pereira AM (2012) Clinical factors involved in the recurrence of pituitary adenomas after surgical remission: a structured review and meta-analysis. Pituitary 15(1):71–83.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  119. 119.

    Reddy R, Cudlip S, Byrne JV, Karavitaki N, Wass JA (2011) Can we ever stop imaging in surgically treated and radiotherapy-naive patients with non-functioning pituitary adenoma? Eur J Endocrinol 165(5):739–744.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  120. 120.

    Tampourlou M, Ntali G, Ahmed S, Arlt W, Ayuk J, Byrne JV, Chavda S, Cudlip S, Gittoes N, Grossman A, Mitchell R, O’Reilly MW, Paluzzi A, Toogood A, Wass JAH, Karavitaki N (2017) Outcome of nonfunctioning pituitary adenomas that regrow after primary treatment: a study from two large UK centers. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 102(6):1889–1897.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  121. 121.

    Wass JA, Reddy R, Karavitaki N (2011) The postoperative monitoring of nonfunctioning pituitary adenomas. Nat Rev Endocrinol 7(7):431–434.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  122. 122.

    Noh TW, Jeong HJ, Lee MK, Kim TS, Kim SH, Lee EJ (2009) Predicting recurrence of nonfunctioning pituitary adenomas. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 94(11):4406–4413.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  123. 123.

    Gejman R, Swearingen B, Hedley-Whyte ET (2008) Role of Ki-67 proliferation index and p53 expression in predicting progression of pituitary adenomas. Hum Pathol 39(5):758–766.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  124. 124.

    Raverot G, Dantony E, Beauvy J, Vasiljevic A, Mikolasek S, Borson-Chazot F, Jouanneau E, Roy P, Trouillas J (2017) Risk of recurrence in pituitary neuroendocrine tumors: a prospective study using a five-tiered classification. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 102(9):3368–3374.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  125. 125.

    Lee MH, Lee JH, Seol HJ, Lee JI, Kim JH, Kong DS, Nam DH (2016) Clinical concerns about recurrence of non-functioning pituitary adenoma. Brain Tumor Res Treat 4(1):1–7.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  126. 126.

    Minniti G, Jaffrain-Rea ML, Osti M, Cantore G, Enrici RM (2007) Radiotherapy for nonfunctioning pituitary adenomas: from conventional to modern stereotactic radiation techniques. Neurosurg Rev 30(3):167–175. (Discussion 175–166)

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  127. 127.

    Colao A, Di Somma C, Pivonello R, Faggiano A, Lombardi G, Savastano S (2008) Medical therapy for clinically non-functioning pituitary adenomas. Endocr Relat Cancer 15(4):905–915.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  128. 128.

    Cooper O, Greenman Y (2018) Dopamine agonists for pituitary adenomas. Front Endocrinol 9:469.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  129. 129.

    Raverot G, Burman P, McCormack A, Heaney A, Petersenn S, Popovic V, Trouillas J, Dekkers OM (2018) European society of endocrinology clinical practice guidelines for the management of aggressive pituitary tumours and carcinomas. Eur J Endocrinol 178(1):G1–G24.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  130. 130.

    Priola SM, Esposito F, Cannavo S, Conti A, Abbritti RV, Barresi V, Baldari S, Ferrau F, Germano A, Tomasello F, Angileri FF (2017) Aggressive pituitary adenomas: the dark side of the moon. World Neurosurg 97:140–155.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  131. 131.

    Nilsson B, Gustavasson-Kadaka E, Bengtsson BA, Jonsson B (2000) Pituitary adenomas in Sweden between 1958 and 1991: incidence, survival, and mortality. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 85(4):1420–1425.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  132. 132.

    Olsson DS, Bryngelsson IL, Ragnarsson O (2017) Time trends of mortality in patients with non-functioning pituitary adenoma: a Swedish nationwide study. Pituitary 20(2):218–224.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  133. 133.

    Casanueva FF, Barkan AL, Buchfelder M, Klibanski A, Laws ER, Loeffler JS, Melmed S, Mortini P, Wass J, Giustina A (2017) Criteria for the definition of pituitary tumor centers of excellence (PTCOE): a pituitary society statement. Pituitary 20(5):489–498.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

Download references


The authors would like to thank Peter Todd (Tajut Ltd., Kaiapoi, New Zealand) for third-party writing assistance in drafting of this manuscript, for which he received financial compensation from ALF-funding.


This review did not receive any specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sector.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Daniela Esposito.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

Daniela Esposito has received lecture fees from Ipsen. Daniel S. Olsson has been a consultant for Sandoz, Ipsen, and Pfizer. Michael Buchfelder is speaker for HRA Pharma, Ipsen, Novartis, and Pfizer, and has received funding from Novartis and Pfizer. Thomas Skoglund has received lecture fees from Abbott. Gudmundur Johannsson has received lecture fees from Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, Sandoz, Merck Serono, and Otsuka as wells as consultancy fees from Astra Zeneca and Shire. Oskar Ragnarsson has nothing to declare.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Esposito, D., Olsson, D.S., Ragnarsson, O. et al. Non-functioning pituitary adenomas: indications for pituitary surgery and post-surgical management. Pituitary 22, 422–434 (2019).

Download citation


  • Pituitary adenomas
  • Hypopituitarism
  • Endocrine care
  • Pituitary surgery
  • Surgical outcome