Development and clinical validation of a grading system for pituitary adenoma consistency

Martin J. Rutkowski, Ki Eun Chang, Tyler Cardinal, Robin Du, Ali R. Tafreshi, Daniel A. Donoho, Andrew Brunswick, Alexander Micko, Chia Shang J. Liu, Mark S. Shiroishi, John D. Carmichael, Gabriel Zada

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE Pituitary adenoma (PA) consistency, or texture, is an important intraoperative characteristic that may dictate operative dissection techniques and/or instruments used for tumor removal during endoscopic endonasal approaches (EEAs). The impact of PA consistency on surgical outcomes has yet to be elucidated. METHODS The authors developed an objective 5-point grading scale for PA consistency based on intraoperative characteristics, including ease of tumor debulking, manipulation, and instrument selection, ranging from cystic/hemorrhagic tumors (grade 1) to calcified tumors (grade 5). The proposed grading system was prospectively assessed in 306 consecutive patients who underwent an EEA for PAs, and who were subsequently analyzed for associations with surgical outcomes, including extent of resection (EOR) and complication profiles. RESULTS Institutional database review identified 306 patients who underwent intraoperative assessment of PA consistency, of which 96% were macroadenomas, 70% had suprasellar extension, and 44% had cavernous sinus invasion (CSI). There were 214 (69.9%) nonfunctional PAs and 92 functional PAs (31.1%). Distribution of scores included 15 grade 1 tumors (4.9%), 112 grade 2 tumors (36.6%), 125 grade 3 tumors (40.8%), 52 grade 4 tumors (17%), and 2 grade 5 tumors (0.7%). Compared to grade 1/2 and grade 3 PAs, grade 4/5 PAs were significantly larger (22.5 vs 26.6 vs 27.4 mm, p < 0.01), more likely to exhibit CSI (39% vs 42% vs 59%, p < 0.05), and trended toward nonfunctionality (67% vs 68% vs 82%, p = 0.086). Although there was no association between PA consistency and preoperative headaches or visual dysfunction, grade 4/5 PAs trended toward preoperative (p = 0.058) and postoperative panhypopituitarism (p = 0.066). Patients with preoperative visual dysfunction experienced greater improvement if they had a grade 1/2 PA (p < 0.05). Intraoperative CSF leaks were noted in 32% of cases and were more common with higher-consistency-grade tumors (p = 0.048), although this difference did not translate to postoperative CSF leaks. Gross-total resection (%) was more likely with lower PA consistency score as follows: grade 1/2 (60%), grade 3 (50%), grade 4/5 (44%; p = 0.045). Extracapsular techniques were almost exclusively performed in grade 4/5 PAs. Assignment of scores showed low variance and high reproducibility, with an intraclass correlation coefficient of 0.905 (95% CI 0.815-0.958), indicating excellent interrater reliability. CONCLUSIONS These findings demonstrate clinical validity of the proposed intraoperative grading scale with respect to PA subtype, neuroimaging features, EOR, and endocrine complications. Future studies will assess the relation of PA consistency to preoperative MRI findings to accurately predict consistency, thereby allowing the surgeon to tailor the exposure and prepare for varying resection strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)180-1807
Number of pages1628
JournalJournal of neurosurgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Adenoma
  • Consistency
  • Endoscopic
  • Extent of resection
  • Pituitary surgery
  • Recurrence
  • Transsphenoidal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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