Pituitary apoplexy is a rare clinical emergency due to acute ischemic infarction or hemorrhage of the pituitary gland. As this disorder most often involves a pituitary adenoma, especially nonfunctioning tumors, the syndrome should be referred to as pituitary tumor apoplexy. The precise physiopathology is not completely clear. Although in most cases it occurs spontaneously, pituitary apoplexy can be precipitated by many risk factors. The main symptom is headache of sudden onset associated with visual disturbances, signs of meningeal irritation, and/or endocrine dysfunction. Corticotropic deficiency is a potentially life-threatening disorder. Magnetic resonance imaging is the most sensitive to confirm the diagnosis by revealing a pituitary tumor with hemorrhagic and/or necrotic components. Earlier studies used to consider urgent decompression of the lesion surgically, but nowadays, more recent studies favor conservative management in selected patients (those without important visual acuity or field defects and with normal consciousness). This wait-and-see approach gives evidence of excellent outcomes in terms of oculomotor palsy, pituitary function, and subsequent tumor growth. Surgical decompression may be necessary in some cases. Once the acute phase is over, the patient should be reevaluated for hormonal deficiencies. Moreover, spontaneous remission of syndromes, such as acromegaly, may be caused by pituitary adenoma apoplexy.
Part of the book: Pituitary Diseases