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OBJECTIVE: Non-functioning pituitary adenomas (NFA) are the commonest type of pituitary macroadenoma. Although the initial definitive management of these tumours is almost always trans-sphenoidal surgery, the use of postoperative radiotherapy remains controversial. Radiotherapy has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of tumour regrowth. An audit of patients with NFAs treated with trans-sphenoidal surgery without irradiation was performed at our centre five years ago, and suggested that careful selection and follow-up could avoid the need for adjuvant radiotherapy. We have repeated this audit to assess the longer term effects of this management strategy. METHODS AND PATIENTS: The case notes and imaging of the original cohort of 65 of 73 patients (50 males, mean age 52) who had undergone trans-sphenoidal surgery (TSA) for NFA between July 1979 and 1992, had not received irradiation and were followed up by imaging were reviewed. Tumour regrowth was defined as enlargement of the pituitary tumour. Mean follow-up was 76 months (range 12-173). RESULTS: Pituitary tumour regrowth has occurred in 21 of the 65 patients (32%) during a mean follow-up of 76 months compared with 8/73 (11%) in 1994 (P = 0.002). The tumour regrowth was detected at a mean of 5.4 years (range 2-14 years). Lifetable analysis of the whole unirradiated group showed 82% recurrence free survival at 5 years (95% confidence limits 72-92%), and 56% at 10 years (95% confidence limits 38-74%). Eight (12%) patients required a second surgical procedure (6 TSA and 2 craniotomies). There was no relationship between recurrence and whether a total surgical removal was thought to have been performed. CONCLUSION: Despite careful selection of patients with non-functioning pituitary adenomas, tumour regrowth occurs in a significant proportion. These results show that continued follow-up in these patients is essential as significantly more patients showed evidence of tumour regrowth at this second assessment compared with the 1994 data. Until we are able to predict which tumours are likely to regrow postoperatively, radiotherapy should be considered for all patients with non-functioning pituitary adenomas as even in carefully selected cases, the regrowth rate is approaching 50% at 10 years.

Original publication




Journal article


Clin endocrinol (oxf)

Publication Date





281 - 284


Adenoma, Adult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Chi-Square Distribution, Disease-Free Survival, Female, Follow-Up Studies, Humans, Life Tables, Male, Medical Audit, Middle Aged, Neoplasm Recurrence, Local, Pituitary Neoplasms, Reoperation