The long-term sequelae of external pituitary irradiation alone or in combination with surgery and/or bromocriptine therapy have been studied in 14 patients with large prolactinomas over an observation period of 6-22 years (mean 13 years). Galactorrhoea was abolished in four of the five females with this symptom, but menstrual disturbance persisted in five of six patients. Sexual function was normal without sex hormone replacement in only one of the eight males after treatment. Neurological deficits were abolished or improved by treatment in all 9 patients with this presentation. Serum prolactin levels declined after treatment (P less than 0.001) and fell to within the normal range off bromocriptine therapy in six of the 14 patients at a mean of 9 years (range 5-17 years) after radiotherapy. All patients had anterior pituitary deficiency of some degree at reassessment, and 13 required replacement treatment. Serial skull radiographs revealed remineralization of the fossa floor in five patients and a decrease in fossa size in three. All five patients who did not also have surgery had evidence of tumour shrinkage without bromocriptine treatment (on CT scan or metrizamide cisternography). Fourth generation CT scans on completion of the study revealed a decrease in tumour mass in all patients, with varying degrees of empty sella in 13 and a cystic intrasellar tumour in the remaining one. Residual tumour was demonstrated in 10 patients, three of whom had normal serum prolactin levels, while one patient without visible tumour had persistent hyperprolactinaemia. Radiotherapy, alone or in combination with surgery and bromocriptine, effectively decreases prolactin secretion and tumour size in patients with large prolactinomas at the expense of other anterior pituitary function. Circulating prolactin levels are a poor marker of residual tumour volume.
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