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Open access

Emilia Sbardella, George Farah, Ahmed Fathelrahman, Simon Cudlip, Olaf Ansorge, Niki Karavitaki and Ashley B Grossman

Summary

Pituitary adenomas are a common intracranial neoplasm, usually demonstrating a benign phenotype. They can be classified according to pathological, radiological or clinical behaviour as typical, atypical or carcinomas, invasive or noninvasive, and aggressive or nonaggressive. Prolactinomas account for 40–60% of all pituitary adenomas, with dopamine agonists representing the first-line treatment and surgery/radiotherapy reserved for drug intolerance/resistance or in neuro-ophthalmological emergencies. We present the case of a 62-year-old man with an apparently indolent prolactin-secreting macroadenoma managed with partial resection and initially showing a biochemical response to cabergoline. Five years later, the tumour became resistant to cabergoline, despite a substantial increase in dosage, showing rapid growth and causing worsening of vision. The patient then underwent two further transsphenoidal operations and continued on high-dose cabergoline; despite these interventions, the tumour continued enlarging and prolactin increased to 107 269 U/L. Histology of the third surgical specimen demonstrated features of aggressive behaviour (atypical adenoma with a high cell proliferation index) not present in the tumour removed at the first operation. Subsequently, he was referred for radiotherapy aiming to control tumour growth.

Learning points:

  • The development of secondary resistance to dopamine agonists (DAs) is a serious sign as it may be associated with de-differentiation of the prolactinoma and thus of aggressive or malignant transformation.

  • Significant de-differentiation of the adenoma documented on consecutive histologies suggests a possible transition to malignancy.

  • A combination of histological ‘alarm’ features associated with persistent growth and escape from DAs treatment in recurrent adenomas should alert clinicians and demands close follow-up.

  • A multidisciplinary approach by pathologists, endocrinologists and neurosurgeons is essential.

Open access

Ekaterina Manuylova, Laura M Calvi, Catherine Hastings, G Edward Vates, Mahlon D Johnson, William T Cave Jr and Ismat Shafiq

Summary

Co-secretion of growth hormone (GH) and prolactin (PRL) from a single pituitary adenoma is common. In fact, up to 25% of patients with acromegaly may have PRL co-secretion. The prevalence of acromegaly among patients with a newly diagnosed prolactinoma is unknown. Given the possibility of mixed GH and PRL co-secretion, the current recommendation is to obtain an insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) in patients with prolactinoma at the initial diagnosis. Long-term follow-up of IGF-1 is not routinely done. Here, we report two cases of well-controlled prolactinoma on dopamine agonists with the development of acromegaly 10–20 years after the initial diagnoses. In both patients, a mixed PRL/GH-cosecreting adenoma was confirmed on the pathology examination after transsphenoidal surgery (TSS). Therefore, periodic routine measurements of IGF-1 should be considered regardless of the duration and biochemical control of prolactinoma.

Learning points:

  • Acromegaly can develop in patients with well-controlled prolactinoma on dopamine agonists.

  • The interval between prolactinoma and acromegaly diagnoses can be several decades.

  • Periodic screening of patients with prolactinoma for growth hormone excess should be considered and can 
lead to an early diagnosis of acromegaly before the development of complications.

Open access

Ilse C A Bakker, Chris D Schubart and Pierre M J Zelissen

Summary

In this report, we describe a female patient with both prolactinoma and psychotic disorder who was successfully treated with aripiprazole, a partial dopamine 2 receptor agonist. During the follow-up of more than 10 years, her psychotic symptoms improved considerably, prolactin levels normalised and the size of the prolactinoma decreased. This observation may be of clinical relevance in similar patients who often are difficult to treat with the regular dopaminergic drugs.

Learning points

  • Prolactinoma coinciding with psychosis can represent a therapeutic challenge.

  • In contrast to many other antipsychotic drugs, aripiprazole is associated with a decrease in prolactin levels.

  • Aripiprazole can be a valuable pharmaceutical tool to treat both prolactinoma and psychosis.

Open access

J Bukowczan, K Lois, M Mathiopoulou, A B Grossman and R A James

Summary

Giant prolactinomas are rare tumours of the pituitary, which typically exceed 40 mm in their largest dimension. Impairment of higher cognitive function has been noted post-operatively after transcranial surgery and as a long-term consequence of the radiotherapy treatment. However, there has been little that is reported on such disturbances in relation to the tumour per se, and to our knowledge, there has been none in terms of responsivity to dopamine agonist therapy and shrinkage in these tumours. We present a case of successful restoration of severely impaired cognitive functions achieved safely after significant adenoma involution with medical treatment alone.

Learning points

  • Giant prolactinomas can be present with profound cognitive defects.

  • Dopamine agonists remain in the mainstay first-line treatment of giant prolactinomas.

  • Mechanisms of the reversible cognitive impairment associated with giant prolactinoma treatment appear to be complex and remain open to further studies.

  • Young patients with giant prolactinomas mandate genetic testing towards familial predisposition.

Open access

Niki Margari, Jonathan Pollock and Nemanja Stojanovic

Summary

Prolactinomas constitute the largest subsection of all secretory pituitary adenomas. Most are microprolactinomas and are satisfactorily treated by medical management alone. Giant prolactinomas, measuring more than 4 cm in diameter, are rare and usually occur more commonly in men. Macroprolatinomas tend to present with symptoms of mass effect rather than those of hyperprolactinaemia. Dopamine agonists (DA) are the treatment of choice for all prolactinomas. Surgery is usually reserved for DA resistance or if vision is threatened by the mass effects of the tumour. We describe the case of a 52 year-old woman with a giant invasive prolactinoma who required multiple surgical procedures as well as medical management with DA. One of the surgical interventions required a posterior approach via the trans cranial sub occipital transtentorial approach, a surgical technique that has not been previously described in the medical literature for this indication. The giant prolactinoma was reduced significantly with the above approach and patient symptoms from the compressing effects of the tumour were resolved. This case highlights the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to the management of such patients who present with florid neurological sequelae secondary to pressure effects. Although this presentation is uncommon, surgery via a sub occipital transtentorial approach may be considered the treatment of choice in suitable patients with giant invasive prolactinomas compressing the brainstem.

Learning points

  • Giant prolactinomas present with symptoms of mass effect or those of hyperprolactinaemia.

  • Interpretation of the pituitary profile is crucial to guide further investigations and management.

  • Treatment of giant invasive prolactinomas may involve a combination of medical management and multiple surgical interventions.

  • Treatment with DA may cause pituitary haemorrhage or infarction in patients with these tumours.

  • A sub occipital transtetorial approach may be considered the treatment of choice in invasive prolactinomas compressing the brainstem.

  • Multidisciplinary approach of such patients is fundamental for a better outcome.

Open access

J K Prague, C L Ward, O G Mustafa, B C Whitelaw, A King, N W Thomas and J Gilbert

Summary

Therapeutic shrinkage of prolactinomas with dopamine agonists achieves clinical benefit but can expose fistulae that have arisen as a result of bony erosion of the sella floor and anterior skull base by the invasive tumour, resulting in the potential development of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) rhinorrhoea, meningitis, and rarely pneumocephalus. Onset of symptoms is typically within 4 months of commencing therapy. The management is typically surgical repair via an endoscopic transnasal transsphenoidal approach. A 23-year-old man presented to the Emergency Department with acute left limb weakness and intermittent headaches. Visual fields were full to confrontation. Immediate computed tomography and subsequent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), demonstrated a 5 cm lobular/cystic mass invading the right cavernous sinus, displacing and compressing the midbrain, with destruction of the bony sella. He was referred to the regional pituitary multidisciplinary team (MDT). Serum prolactin was 159 455 mIU/l (7514.37 ng/ml) (normal ranges 100–410 mIU/l (4.72–19.34 ng/ml)). Cabergoline was commenced causing dramatic reduction in tumour size and resolution of neurological symptoms. Further dose titrations were required as the prolactin level plateaued and significant residual tumour remained. After 13 months of treatment, he developed continuous daily rhinorrhea, and on presenting to his general practitioner was referred to an otolaryngologist. When next seen in the routine regional pituitary clinic six-months later he was admitted for urgent surgical repair. Histology confirmed a prolactinoma with a low proliferation index of 2% (Ki-67 antibody). In view of partial cabergoline resistance he completed a course of conventional radiotherapy. Nine months after treatment the serum prolactin had fallen to 621 mIU/l, and 12 months after an MRI showed reduced tumour volume.

Learning points

  • CSF rhinorrhoea occurred 13 months after the initiation of cabergoline, suggesting a need for vigilance throughout therapy.

  • Dedicated bony imaging should be reviewed early in the patient pathway to assess the potential risk of CSF rhinorrhoea after initiation of dopamine agonist therapy.

  • There was a significant delay before this complication was brought to the attention of the regional pituitary MDT, with associated risk whilst left untreated. This demonstrates a need for patients and healthcare professionals to be educated about early recognition and management of this complication to facilitate timely and appropriate referral to the MDT for specialist advice and management. We changed our nurse-led patient education programme as a result of this case.

  • Having developed partial cabergoline resistance and CSF rhinorrhoea, an excellent therapeutic response was achieved with conventional radiotherapy after limited surgery.

Open access

Maryam Rahman, Ignacio Jusué-Torres, Abdulrahman Alkabbani, Roberto Salvatori, Fausto J Rodríguez and Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa

Summary

Pituitary adenomas are usually solitary lesions. Rarely, patients may present with two distinct pituitary tumors. We report a case of synchronous secretory pituitary adenomas in a woman who initially presented with elevated prolactin levels. She was initially treated with cabergoline, but, after many years, she began developing symptoms consistent with acromegaly. Imaging revealed two distinct tumors within the pituitary gland. Endocrinological investigation confirmed acromegaly. At the time of surgery, two separate tumors were identified and resected. Pathological analysis demonstrated one tumor as a prolactinoma, and the other tumor as a GH-secreting adenoma. Postoperatively, her GH and IGF1 levels normalized, while the prolactin level remained slightly above normal. This case highlights that GH and prolactin level elevation is not always from co-secretion by the same adenoma.

Learning points

  • Synchronous pituitary adenomas represent <0.5% of pituitary tumors requiring surgery.

  • In the setting of elevated GH and prolactin levels, one cannot assume that they are co-secreted by the same adenoma.

  • A careful study of hormonal workup and pre-operative imaging is necessary for synchronous pituitary adenomas to assure resection of both tumors.

Open access

Aimee R Hayes, Anthony J O'Sullivan and Mark A Davies

Summary

Pituitary apoplexy is a rare event in pregnancy. A 41-year-old woman with a known pituitary microadenoma presented with visual disturbance and headache during the second trimester of pregnancy. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) demonstrated pituitary apoplexy with chiasmal compression. After treatment with corticosteroid therapy, she underwent transsphenoidal excision of the pituitary adenoma. Visual abnormalities were completely restored and pituitary function preserved. There was no evidence of impact on the foetus. The literature on the subject is reviewed with emphasis on the management of the apoplectic patient with mild and stable neuro-ophthalmological signs.

Learning points

  • There are no clear guidelines on the management of pituitary apoplexy in pregnancy. A multidisciplinary approach can minimise morbidity and mortality.

  • Pituitary apoplexy has an unpredictable clinical course and determining which clinical situations warrant early surgery needs to take into consideration the presence and severity of neurological signs and their stability.

  • The management of conscious apoplectic patients with absent or mild and stable neuro-ophthalmological signs is controversial.

Open access

Niki Margari and Simon Page

Summary

A 56-year-old man was brought to the Emergency Department after being found collapsed at his office with a reduced level of consciousness. From clinical examination and initial investigations, he was diagnosed as having bacterial meningitis and was promptly commenced on empirical i.v. antibiotics. Computed tomography of the brain revealed a parenchymal mass at the base of the skull and subsequent magnetic resonance imaging of the head 4 days later confirmed a large soft tissue mass, which extended through to the cavernous sinus. Examination of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) following lumbar puncture confirmed pneumococcal meningitis and antibiotics were continued for 2 weeks in total. During the admission, hormone profiling revealed a grossly elevated prolactin. When coupled with the initial results of the brain imaging, this result helped to confirm a macroprolactinoma that was invading the postnasal space. A final diagnosis of pneumococcal meningitis secondary to invading prolactinoma was made. The patient was started on cabergoline and was followed up in the outpatient clinic upon discharge. He made a full recovery from the meningitis. Over the next few months, prolactin levels returned to be normal and the prolactinoma shrank significantly in size. The patient remains on cabergoline that will most likely be continued indefinitely.

Learning points

  • Bacterial meningitis is a rare first presentation of pituitary macroprolactinoma.

  • Patients with invasive macroprolactinoma do not always present with CSF leakage.

  • Prompt treatment with antibiotics and a dopamine agonist is of great importance for a favourable outcome.

  • Close monitoring of the patient for signs of raised intracranial pressure is essential in the management of macroprolactinoma.

  • Note the risk of CSF leakage after initiation of dopamine agonist therapy irrespective of concomitant meningitis in macroprolactinoma.