Prospective evaluation of a protocol for reduced glucocorticoid replacement in transsphenoidal pituitary adenomectomy: Prophylactic glucocorticoid replacement is seldom necessary

John M. Wentworth, Nicole Gao, Kalpana P. Sumithran, Niki F. Maartens, Andrew H. Kaye, Peter G. Colman, Peter R. Ebeling

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23 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Most pituitary surgery centres prescribe perioperative glucocorticoids to subjects undergoing transsphenoidal pituitary adenomectomy (TSA), despite reports suggesting this may be unnecessary. Evidence-based guidelines for glucocorticoid use in TSA have recently been published but there are no prospective studies of their utility. Objective: To implement and assess a protocol for reduced glucocorticoid replacement for subjects undergoing TSA. Design: Prospective and retrospective cohort study in an Australian pituitary surgery centre. Patients and measurements: Clinical and biochemical data for 56 TSAs performed for non-ACTH-secreting tumours between March 2004 and April 2006 were prospectively collected and compared with data for 47 TSAs performed between October 2001 and November 2003, before implementation of the protocol. In the prospective cohort, a postoperative days 1-3 morning serum cortisol threshold of 250 nmol/l (91 μg/dl) was used to guide long-term glucocorticoid requirement. Results: Implementation of the protocol was associated with significant reductions in dose and duration of glucocorticoid treatment post TSA in 44 'low-risk' cases (no preoperative glucocorticoid use or evidence of pituitary apoplexy). In two low-risk cases, long-term glucocorticoid replacement was required despite postoperative cortisol greater than 250 nmol/l. Following the remaining 42 low-risk operations, glucocorticoid was not prescribed on hospital discharge on the basis of morning serum cortisol > 250 nmol/l and no clinical evidence of hypocortisolism. None of these 42 cases required glucocorticoid treatment for hypocortisolism following surgery. Short synacthen tests were performed in 35 of these subjects a minimum of 6 months after surgery and were normal. Use of the protocol was not associated with differences in postoperative complications. Conclusions: Reduced glucocorticoid replacement in TSA is safe and reduces patient exposure to glucocorticoids and their potential adverse events. The occurrence of hypocortisolism in two low-risk subjects with serum cortisol > 250 nmol/l highlights the importance of daily clinical assessment when using this protocol.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-35
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Endocrinology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008
Externally publishedYes

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