Pituitary apoplexy: evaluation, management, and prognosis

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Purpose of review

To review the current standard of care in the diagnosis and treatment of pituitary apoplexy and to determine any updated clinical management strategies.

Recent findings

Pituitary apoplexy is a rare but life-threatening medical emergency. Presenting signs and symptoms often include severe headache, visual loss, ophthalmoplegia, altered consciousness, and impaired pituitary function. Common predisposing factors include closed head trauma, blood pressure alterations, history of pituitary irradiation, cardiac surgery, anticoagulation, treatment with dopamine agonists, pituitary stimulation testing, and pregnancy. MRI imaging is the most sensitive sequence for the detection of acute and old intracranial hemorrhage. Patients often require emergent intravenous fluids, blood transfusions, and high-dose corticosteroids. Patients who remain clinically and neurologically unstable require urgent transsphenoidal surgical decompression as definitive treatment.


In patients with pituitary apoplexy, improvement in visual field defects, visual acuity, and diplopia is typically observed after emergent application of therapy, often including medical and surgical treatment. Some patients may require long-term hormonal therapy after surgery.

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