Dr J. D. N. Nabarro, The Middlesex Hospital, London W1N 8AA.


The use of pituitary surgery for patients with over-production of growth hormone, corticotrophin and prolactin is reviewed. The value of specialized neuroradiological techniques is discussed including computerized tomography, air-encephalography and cavernous sinus venography. The indications for transcranial as opposed to trans-sphenoidal surgery are considered.

The place of trans-sphenoid surgery in the treatment of acromegaly is emphasized and the indications for surgical treatment are reviewed.

The two syndromes due to over-production of ACTH are considered—Cushing's disease and Nelson's syndrome. The increasing use of pituitary surgery for the treatment of Cushing's syndrome due to increased ACTH production is noted, but a warning is given about the small ACTH-secreting pulmonary carcinoid tumour that may closely mimic Cushing's disease. The difficulties encountered in trying to treat patients with Nelson's syndrome are stressed. It is recommended that in the rare case where total adrenalectomy is required in Cushing's disease, pituitary irradiation should be given before or shortly after adrenalectomy.

The present position relating to the surgical treatment of the small prolactin-secreting pituitary tumour is reviewed. Published data and personal experience suggests that for many of these patients, treatment with bromocriptine is preferable to trans-sphenoidal surgery. Large prolactinomas usually need trans-frontal surgery and X-ray therapy, sometimes followed by bromocriptine treatment.

The need for steroid cover for pituitary surgery is discussed and it is suggested that a glucocorticoid with less salt-retaining action than cortisol should be used. The importance of post-operative endocrine assessment is emphasized and a convenient method suggested. The incidence of complications after trans-sphenoidal surgery is low, although panhypopituitarism occurred in 14% of the cases reported.