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Surgical management considerations in cystic prolactinomas—a single center case series

  • Edin NevzatiEmail author
  • Grégoire P. Chatain
  • Steven B. Carr
  • Kevin O. Lillehei
  • Janice M. Kerr
Endocrine Surgery



The optimal treatment of prolactinomas with a predominantly cystic component remains poorly defined. The cystic tumor component is considered to respond less favorably to medical treatment, thereby advocating surgical management. The purpose of this study was to assess remission rates in surgically treated cystic prolactinomas, and to compare outcomes to similarly treated solid micro- and macroprolactinomas.


Clinical and imaging data were retrospectively compiled from 56 patients who underwent transsphenoidal resection, for symptomatic prolactinomas, from 2004 to 2018, at a single academic institution. Pituitary adenomas were subdivided according to tumor size and tumor consistency: cystic prolactinomas (>50% cystic tumor component) n = 17; solid microprolactinomas (<10 mm) n = 10; and solid macroprolactinomas (≥10 mm) n = 29. Remission was defined as a prolactin level of <10 ng/dl either immediately postoperative or at a later time point.


Median tumor size was 15 mm for cystic prolactinomas, 7 mm for solid microprolactinomas, and 25.5 mm for solid macroprolactinomas. Remission was achieved in 76% (n = 13/17) of surgically treated cystic prolactinomas, 100% (n = 10/10) of solid microprolactinomas, and 24% (n = 7/29) of solid macroprolactinomas. More than 44% of solid macroprolactinomas had a Knosp grade > 3, while most cystic prolactinomas (93.8%) and all solid microprolactinomas (100%) had a Knosp grade ≤ 2.


Despite their large tumor size (≥10 mm), high remission rates can be expected with surgically treated cystic prolactinomas. This case series of cystic prolactinomas demonstrates the successful use of transsphenoidal surgery as a favorable, and a potentially curative alternative to dopaminergic therapy in this patient population.


Cystic prolactinoma Microprolactinoma Macroprolactinoma Transsphenoidal surgery Surgical remission 



We thank Patrick William Hosokawa for the support in statistical analysis, Surgical Outcome and Applied Research, Department of Surgery, University of Colorado School of Medicine.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of NeurosurgeryUniversity of Colorado School of MedicineAuroraUSA
  2. 2.Division of NeurosurgeryUniversity of Missouri School of MedicineColumbiaUSA
  3. 3.Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and DiabetesUniversity of Colorado School of MedicineAuroraUSA

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