Objective Unsuccessful surgery for acromegaly has major consequences for the patient as well as financial consequences for the National Health Service (NHS). Surgical expertise affects the outcome. We have used the UK National Acromegaly Register to assess surgical outcomes in different centres to investigate whether these match the previously published case series.
Design Retrospective and prospective observational study by analysis of anonymized national computer register records derived from individual clinical case records from 22 UK endocrine units and their associated pituitary surgical services.
Patients Cases of acromegaly, presenting in 1970–2004, with levels of GH or IGF-1 (785 and 430 cases, respectively) recorded prior to transsphenoidal adenomectomy and in the 12 months postsurgery, before any subsequent pituitary surgery or radiotherapy. GH-lowering pharmacological therapy was permitted only if suspended for biochemical testing.
Measurements Percentage of cases with ‘safe’ mean postoperative GH levels (< 5 mU/l) and/or IGF-1 in the age- and sex-adjusted normal range.
Results ‘Safe’ GH, normal IGF-1, or both was achieved for 26%, 29% and 20% of extrasellar macroadenomas (> 1 cm), respectively, 39%, 39% and 29% of intrasellar macroadenomas, 56%, 51% and 37% of microadenomas (< 1 cm) and 39%, 39% and 28% of cases overall. In centres contributing more than 10 patients’ data, rates of safe GH levels ranged from 20% to 68% and IGF-1 from 19% to 55%. Success rates in attaining safe postsurgical levels of GH improved only slightly in the UK between 1974 and 1999 but markedly thereafter.
Conclusions Surgical outcomes for acromegaly in UK centres vary widely and historically have not, except in a few centres, matched those of large published series, which mostly have a success rate around 60%. Results have, however, improved substantially since 2000 and in the most successful units match those of the best published series. Experience is an important determinant of surgical success in acromegaly and the very recent improvement in surgical results in the UK coincides with a trend to concentrate pituitary surgery in the hands of a smaller number of specialists. Therefore, patients should be offered surgery by a dedicated pituitary surgeon with a caseload sufficient to offer the prospect of safe postsurgical GH and IGF-1 levels for the majority of cases.