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Mike Lin, Venessa Tsang, Janice Brewer, Roderick Clifton-Bligh, and Matti L Gild


Lymphocytic hypophysitis is a rare neuroendocrine disease characterised by an autoimmune inflammatory disorder of the pituitary gland. We report a 50-year-old woman who presented with headaches and bilateral sixth cranial nerve palsies. MRI of the pituitary revealed extensive fibrosis involving the sellar and extending into both cavernous sinuses causing bilateral occlusion of the internal carotid arteries (ICA). Transphenoidal biopsy confirmed the diagnosis of infiltrative fibrotic lymphocytic hypophysitis. Symptoms resolved with high dose of oral steroids but relapsed on tapering, requiring several treatments of i.v. pulse steroids over 8 months. Rituximab combined with mycophenolate mofetil was required to achieve long-term symptom relief. Serial MRI pituitary imaging showed stabilisation of her disease without reduction in sellar mass or regression of ICA occlusion. The patient’s brain remained perfused solely by her posterior circulation. This case demonstrates an unusual presentation of a rare disease and highlights a successful steroid-sparing regimen in a refractory setting.

Learning points:

  • Lymphocytic hypophysitis is a rare inflammatory disorder of the pituitary gland. In exceptional cases, there is infiltration of the cavernous sinus with subsequent occlusion of the internal carotid arteries.
  • First-line treatment of lymphocytic hypophysitis is high-dose glucocorticoids. Relapse after tapering or discontinuation is common and its use is limited by long-term adverse effects.
  • There is a paucity of data for treatment of refractory lymphocytic hypophysitis. Goals of treatment should include improvement in symptoms, correction of hormonal insufficiencies, reduction in lesion size and prevention of recurrence.
  • Steroid-sparing immunosuppressive drugs such as rituximab and mycophenolate mofetil have been successful in case reports. This therapeutic combination represents a viable alternative treatment for refractory disease.
Open access

Despoina Manousaki, Cheri Deal, Jean Jacques De Bruycker, Philippe Ovetchkine, Claude Mercier, and Nathalie Alos


Cystic sellar lesions are a rare cause of hypopituitarism and extremely rare in the pediatric age group. The differential diagnosis is large and includes both primary pituitary abscesses and cystic components on pre-existing lesions, such as adenoma, craniopharyngioma, Rathke's cleft cyst, leukemia, granulomatous disease and lymphocytic hypophysitis. In the absence of a definitive diagnosis, treatment can be challenging. We report a case of a 15-year-old female, who presented with headaches, altered consciousness and diplopia after a molar extraction, for which she had received oral antibiotics. Broad-spectrum i.v. antibiotics were given for presumed meningitis. Blood cultures failed to identify pathogens. Cerebral magnetic resonance imaging showed a pituitary cystic lesion. Endocrine studies revealed abnormal pituitary function. In the absence of a therapeutic response, the patient underwent a transsphenoidal biopsy of the pituitary gland, which yielded a purulent liquid, but cultures were negative. Histopathology showed lymphocytic infiltrates but no neutrophils, compatible with an inflammation of autoimmune or infectious origin. High-dose glucocorticoid therapy was started and pursued, along with i.v. antibiotics, for 6 weeks, leading to clinical and radiological improvement but with persistence of endocrine deficits. In conclusion, this is a case of secondary panhypopituitarism due to a cystic pituitary lesion, with a differential diagnosis of lymphocytic hypophysitis vs abscess in a context of decapitated meningitis. Combination therapy with antibiotics and glucocorticoids is a legitimate approach in the face of diagnostic uncertainty, given the morbidity, and even mortality, associated with these lesions.

Learning points

  • It is not always easy to differentiate primary cystic sellar lesions (such as a primary infectious pituitary abscess) from cystic components on pre-existing lesions (such as adenoma, craniopharyngioma, Rathke's cleft cyst, leukemia or lymphocytic hypophysitis).
  • Because of the absence of specific symptoms and of immunohistochemical and serum markers, response to glucocorticoids can be the only way to differentiate lymphocytic hypophysitis from pituitary lesions of another origin. In addition, microbiological cultures are negative in 50% of cases of primary infectious sellar abscesses, thus the response to antibiotic treatment is often the key element to this diagnosis.
  • A short course of high-dose glucocorticoids combined with antibiotics is not harmful in cases where there is no diagnostic certainty as to the origin of a cystic sellar mass, given the morbidity and mortality associated with these lesions.
  • This approach may also diminish inflammation of either infectious or autoimmune origin while ensuring that the most likely pathogens are being targeted.