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Transnasal surgery for prolactin-secreting pituitary adenomas in childhood and adolescence.

BACKGROUND: Prolactin (PRL)-secreting pituitary adenomas (prolactinomas) are rare in childhood and adolescence; there are only a few published series of patients who were surgically treated. We discuss the gender-dependent differences, and the surgical indications and results for 14 patients with prolactinomas under 18 years of age at surgery.

METHODS: We reviewed the data for 14 patients (10 girls and 4 boys) treated surgically for prolactinomas between 1980 and 1996. Surgery was chosen because of intolerance and/or resistance to dopamine agonist (DA) in 9 patients, the patient's decision in 3, rhinorrhea in 1, and pituitary apoplexy in 1 during DA therapy. All patients underwent direct transnasal explorations. Since 1988, intraoperative PRL measurements were performed. The follow-up period was at least 6 years.

RESULTS: Nine of the 10 girls had primary or secondary amenorrhea, and 3 of the 4 boys had visual field defects. The boys and girls were the same age at the onset of symptoms and had the same preoperative duration of symptoms. Boys had larger, more invasive tumors and higher preoperative and postoperative plasma PRL levels than girls. Two boys demonstrated significant extrasellar extension at the time of diagnosis. Two patients required drilling of the incompletely pneumatized sphenoid sinus to reach the sella. Radical tumor resection was achieved in seven girls and in none of the four boys. In 12 of the 14 patients, normal pituitary function was preserved by transnasal surgery. There was no severe surgical morbidity or mortality. Endocrinological remission by surgery alone was achieved for seven girls, and was achieved in 4 of the 5 patients (80%) with microadenomas. In patients with preoperative mean PRL levels of less than 200 microg/L, the surgical cure rate was 75%.

CONCLUSIONS: Prolactinomas in childhood and adolescence differ in their biology in boys and girls. Transnasal surgery is as safe in childhood patients as it is in adult patients, and it may be an effective alternative to long-term medical therapy for selected patients with prolactinomas. Successful surgical outcomes were achieved in patients with microadenomas and preoperative serum PRL levels of less than 200 microg/L.

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