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Acromegaly is a disorder that occurs when high levels of growth hormone cause bones and soft tissues to grow excessively.
This hormonal disorder develops when your pituitary gland, located at the base of your skull, produces excessive amounts of growth hormone during adulthood, leading to an increase in bone size, particularly of the hands, feet, and face. Because the onset of symptoms occurs gradually, this condition is often misdiagnosed.
Acromegaly is typically diagnosed in middle-age adults, but it can develop at any age. When growth hormone-producing tumors develop in childhood, the condition is called “gigantism,” rather than acromegaly.
Acromegaly is typically caused by a tumor in the pituitary gland.
At UPMC, the preferred surgical treatment for acromegaly is the Endoscopic Endonasal Approach (EEA) to remove the pituitary tumor. This innovative, minimally invasive technique uses the nose and nasal cavities as natural corridors to access hard-to-reach or previously inoperable tumors. Benefits of EEA include:
Other acromegaly treatments available at UPMC include Gamma Knife® radiosurgery and medication.
Symptoms of acromegaly usually develop over time, so the condition is not typically diagnosed for years. The average age for people to be diagnosed with acromegaly is around 40 or 45.
To make the diagnosis of acromegaly, your doctor will:
Symptoms of acromegaly may include:
Complications of acromegaly may include:
Blood tests will measure the hormones produced by the pituitary gland, such as growth hormone (GH), insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I), and other pituitary hormones.
Your doctor might also order:
If not treated, acromegaly can cause serious complications and may be fatal.
Goals of treatment include:
Depending on your symptoms, UPMC's neurosurgical team may recommend a combination of surgical and non-surgical approaches to treat acromegaly.
For most cases of acromegaly, the best treatment is to remove the pituitary tumor (adenoma) that is causing the excessive growth hormone. The adenoma may be approached directly using the Endoscopic Endonasal Approach (EEA).This state-of-the-art, minimally invasive approach allows surgeons to access the tumor through the natural corridor of the nose, without making an open incision. Surgeons then remove the pituitary adenoma through the nose and nasal cavities.
The remaining pituitary gland is explored carefully to check for other lesions, and all abnormal tissue is removed.
EEA offers the benefits of no incisions to heal, no disfigurement, and a faster recovery time.
If you need complementary treatments, such as radiation, those therapies can begin soon after EEA surgery.
Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a painless procedure that uses hundreds of highly focused radiation beams to target tumors and lesions within the brain, with no surgical incision.
For acromegaly, our neurosurgeons use the Gamma Knife for:
As the nation's leading provider of Gamma Knife procedures and treatment UPMC has treated more than 12,000 patients with tumors, vascular malformations, pain, and other functional problems.
You may receive medications to:
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