Clinically silent corticotroph tumors of the pituitary gland

Bernd W. Scheithauer, Alan J. Jaap, Eva Horvath, Kalman Kovacs, Ricardo V. Lloyd, Fredric B. Meyer, Edward R. Laws, William F. Young

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

139 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To determine the clinical presentation, imaging characteristics, microscopic and ultrastructural characteristics, and treatment outcomes of patients with clinically silent pituitary corticotroph adenomas. METHODS: All silent corticotroph adenomas diagnosed at the Mayo Clinic during the years 1975 through 1997 were selected from the files of the Mayo Tissue Registry. RESULTS: We studied 23 cases, occurring in 16 male and 7 female patients (age range, 11-79 yr; mean age, 48 yr), who presented with headaches (50%), visual field defects (61%), extraocular muscle paresis (13%), hypopituitarism (26%), and galactorrhea/amenorrhea (43%/29% of the female patients). No patients exhibited clinical hypercortisolism. All tumors were macroadenomas (2.4 ± 0.8 cm; range, 1.5-4.0 cm) and exhibited suprasellar extension in 87% of the cases and hemorrhage, necrosis, and/or cystic changes in 61%. All tumors stained were variably periodic acid-Schiff-, adrenocorticotropic hormone-, and β-endorphin-positive, particularly Subtype I lesions. Ultrastructural classification was performed in 19 cases. In a comparison of Subtype I and II tumors, differences were observed with respect to sex (male/female, 1.4:1 versus 6:1), preoperative hyperprolactinemia (5 of 16 versus 0 of 6 cases), preoperative hypopituitarism (9 of 16 versus 5 of 7 cases), radiographic or gross invasion (7 of 16 versus 5 of 7 cases), and partial or total postoperative pituitary failure (6 of 16 versus 6 of 6 cases). The overall median postoperative follow-up period was 4.9 years (range, 0.3-16.6 yr); 54% of the patients had persistent or recurrent tumors. CONCLUSION: Clinically silent corticotroph adenomas behave in an aggressive manner and are characterized by the following: lack of clinical signs or symptoms of Cushing's syndrome and normal cortisol levels; no or only minor elevations of serum adrenocorticotropic hormone levels; macroadenomas with hemorrhagic infarction; and presentation dominated by mass effect symptoms. The high persistence/recurrence rate underscores the need for long-term follow-up.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)723-730
Number of pages8
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2000


  • Corticotroph cells
  • Cushing's disease
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Nonfunctioning
  • Pituitary adenoma
  • Ultrastructure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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