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​Pituitary Apoplexy

Pituitary apoplexy is a condition in which there is a hemorrhage or infarction of the pituitary gland.

Learn about the treatment options for Pituitary Apoplexy at the UPMC Pituitary Center of Excellence.

Contact the UPMC Department of Neurosurgery

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What is Pituitary Apoplexy?

Apoplexy is a medical term that refers to a cerebral hemorrhage or other sudden neurological impairment.

Pituitary apoplexy occurs when a pituitary adenoma either spontaneously hemorrhages or grows in such a way as to compress and cut off its own blood supply, resulting in tumor cell death, bleeding, and acute swelling.

Pituitary apoplexy complications

The hemorrhage- or necrosis-induced swelling can compress the:

  • Pituitary gland
  • Optic nerves
  • Nerves that control eye movement

Pituitary apoplexy is a medical emergency and can be fatal if untreated. With treatment, however, the prognosis is good.

Surgery is performed after medical stabilization. At UPMC, the preferred surgical treatment for pituitary apoplexy is the Endoscopic Endonasal Approach (EEA) to remove the tumor and decompress the area.

Diagnosing Pituitary Apoplexy

Symptoms of pituitary apoplexy

The physician will ask about symptoms, which often are sudden and severe. These may include:

  • Severe headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Visual loss/double vision
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Fever
  • Stiff neck
  • Hormone insufficiency

Testing to diagnose pituitary apoplexy

Pituitary apoplexy can be diagnosed by imaging studies such as head CT and MRI, along with lab studies to evaluate electrolyte, glucose, and pituitary hormone levels.

Pituitary Apoplexy Treatment

Once the person has been medically stabilized, surgery is usually a required treatment to decompress the constricted areas and remove the tumor.


Pituitary apoplexies can be directly accessed through the Endoscopic Endonasal Approach (EEA). This approach allows doctors to:

  • See the pituitary gland without making an open incision
  • Remove and perform decompression through the nose and nasal cavities
  • Shorten the recovery time after treatment

The remaining pituitary gland is explored carefully to check for other lesions, and all abnormal tissue is removed.