The dangers of the “Head Down” position in patients with untreated pituitary macroadenomas: case series and review of literature

Satoshi Kiyofuji, Avital Perry, Christopher S. Graffeo, Caterina Giannini, Michael J. Link

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Cavernous sinus syndrome is a rare phenomenon, characterized by simultaneous neuropathies of cranial nerves III–VI. Various pathological processes have been reported as precipitating etiologies, including infection, inflammation, vascular lesions, and neoplasms. Purpose: We report a unique case series of cavernous sinus syndrome attributable to prolonged Trendelenburg or prone positioning during non-cranial procedures and review the pertinent literature to enlighten on this rare but catastrophic phenomenon. Methods: Retrospective case series. Results: In the past year we encountered two patients who presented with acute cavernous sinus syndrome upon awakening from non-cranial operations. One patient underwent an extensive urologic resection of a bladder malignancy positioned in Trendelenburg for approximately 4 h. The second patient underwent a lumbar laminectomy and discectomy in prone position. Both patients were discovered to have infarcted large pituitary macroadenomas as the etiology of their acute ophthalmoplegias, and transnasal, transsphenoidal resection was performed acutely to decompress the cavernous sinus contents. Pathologic analysis of the resected specimens in each case confirmed necrotic, infarcted pituitary adenoma. Both patients made a complete recovery with no evidence of residual or recurrent tumor in short term follow-up. Conclusion: We report a brief case series of acute cavernous sinus syndrome resulting from dependent positioning during non-cranial operations in patients with pituitary macroadenoma. Although rare, this highlights a potential danger of “head down” positioning in patients with intracranial pathology—particularly in or around the sella and cavernous sinus. Despite multiple cranial neuropathies upon presentation, both patients made complete recovery following surgical decompression of the cavernous sinuses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-237
Number of pages7
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018


  • Cavernous sinus syndrome
  • Pituitary adenoma
  • Pituitary apoplexy
  • Transsphenoidal surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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