Pituitary tumor apoplexy (PTA) classically comprises sudden-onset headache, loss of vision, ophthalmoparesis, and decreased consciousness. It typically results from hemorrhage and/or infarction within a pituitary adenoma. Presentation is heterologous, and optimal management is debated. The time course of recovery of cranial nerve deficits (CNDs) and headaches is not well established. In this study, a retrospective series of consecutive patients with PTA managed at a single academic institution over a 22-year period is presented. Headaches at the time of surgery were more severe in the early and subacute surgical cohort and improved significantly within 72 h postoperatively (p < 0.01). At one year, 90% of CNDs affecting cranial nerves (CNs) 3, 4, and 6 had recovered, with no differences between early (<4 d), subacute (4–14 d), and delayed (>14 d) time-to-surgery cohorts. Remarkably, half recovered within three days. In total, 56% of CN2 deficits recovered, with the early surgery cohort including more severe deficits and recovering at a lower rate (p = 0.01). No correlation of time-to-surgery and rapidity of recovery of CNDs was observed (p = 0.65, 0.72). Surgery for PTA is associated with rapid recovery of CNDs in the early, subacute, and delayed time frames, and with rapid headache improvement in the early and subacute time frames in 50% or more of patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4914-4922
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent Oncology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • headache
  • ophthalmoplegia
  • pituitary apoplexy
  • pituitary tumor apoplexy
  • recovery


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