A Collaborative Approach to Pituitary Gland Disorders

Because most pituitary disorders are caused by pituitary tumors, the University Hospitals Division of Clinical & Molecular Endocrinology takes a collaborative approach to treating pituitary disorders.

Often called the "master control gland," it manufactures pituitary gland hormones that affect growth and the functions of the other glands in the body. Located at the base of the brain, the pea-sized gland is susceptible to disorders that may cause nausea and vomiting, weakness, feeling cold, menstrual cycle problems, sexual dysfunction, an increase in urine and unexpected weight gains or loss.

These symptoms often are caused by having too much or too little of one of certain hormones. While injuries can cause pituitary gland disorders, the most common cause of disorders are pituitary tumors, which may cause weight gain, bruising, anxiety and depression, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, confusion, and bone and muscle weakness. Pituitary tumors are not brain tumors and are rarely cancerous.

When tumors are the cause, the endocrinologists at University Hospitals consult and collaborate with the team of neurosurgeons at the nationally recognized University Hospitals Neurological Institute to design treatments customized to the needs of the patient.

Pituitary gland surgery is the primary treatment option for tumors. At University Hospitals, the type of surgery and its effectiveness depends on the tumor type, its size and location, and whether or not it has spread.

Endoscopic surgery - in which a thin fiber-optic tube with a tiny camera is inserted through a small incision in the nose is minimally invasive and allows the neurosurgeon to see and reach the pituitary gland and take out the tumor.

The most common surgical method to remove pituitary tumors is transsphenoidal, which means that the surgery is done through the spheroid sinus, which is in the skull, behind the nasal passages and below the brain. Although more invasive then endoscopic procedures, this method touches no part of the brain and there are fewer side effect and no visible scar.

For larger tumors, a craniotomy may be used. In this procedures, the neurosurgeon operates through an opening in the front of the skull.

Our endocrinology specialists and neurosurgeons will work together and with you to determine the surgery that is best for you and your unique needs.