Being diagnosed with a pituitary tumor does not have to mean undergoing painful and invasive surgery. While it might sound like science fiction, the fact is that it is currently possible to remove some types of brain tumors, including pituitary tumors, with no visible incisions. Pituitary tumors, which make up 10 percent of all intercranial tumors, can be removed endoscopically through the nose. As one would expect, recovery time, post-surgical pain and scarring are much less with this type of noninvasive surgery than with traditional brain surgery.
Pituitary Gland Tumor Diagnosis
Symptoms of pituitary gland tumors vary widely depending on location, size and function. Functional tumors, which secrete hormones, are usually diagnosed at earlier stages because even small tumors of this type can produce profound physical symptoms such as weight changes, constipation, fatigue and other issues. Tumors that do not affect hormone secretion, by contrast, are usually only diagnosed once they grow big enough to impinge on other brain structures and trigger symptoms such as headaches and changes in vision. Final diagnosis of a pituitary tumor is based on the patient’s history, physical examination findings, hormone studies and the results of diagnostic imaging such as MRI scans.
Endoscopic Tumor Removal
Once the surgeon has reliable images of the pituitary tumor, he or she can begin planning surgery. If endoscopic removal is possible and selected, an ear, nose and throat specialist usually works with the surgeon to carry out the procedure. The ear, nose and throat doctor inserts a small endoscope that has a camera in its tip through one of the patient’s nostrils. The endoscope is advanced until it hits the bony wall of the sphenoid sinus. An incision is then made to allow the endoscope to enter the sinus, and another incision in the back of the sinus allows access to the area of the pituitary. The surgeon visualizes the tumor with the camera and removes it in small pieces. After the tumor is removed, the surgeon withdraws the endoscope. The procedure usually only takes a few hours to complete.
Aftercare and Prognosis
Patients commonly spend one to two days in the hospital after endoscopic pituitary tumor removal. Most patients go home with pain medication to control post-surgical pain and are advised to restrict activity for a few days in order to let healing progress efficiently. In the majority of cases, patients recover normally and soon return to regular activities. As with any brain surgery, though, complications, such as bleeding, cerebrospinal fluid leakage, pituitary damage, meningitis and others, are possible. Despite the risks, however, the prognosis for improvement or complete relief of pituitary tumor symptoms is very good after this surgery. In some cases, the surgery can even accomplish a cure.
Frank is a writter / blogger for the health industry and enjoys writting about medical procedures. For more information about pituitary gland tumors please visit skullbaseinstitute.com