Cortisol Levels Predict Remission in Cushing’s Patients Undergoing Transsphenoidal Surgery, Study Finds

Cortisol Levels Predict Remission in Cushing’s Patients Undergoing Transsphenoidal Surgery, Study Finds

In patients with Cushing’s disease, removing the pituitary tumor via an endoscopic transsphenoidal surgery (TSS) leads to better remission rates than microscopic TSS, according to new research.

But regardless of surgical approach, plasma cortisol levels one day after surgery are predictive of remission, researchers found.

The study, “Management of Cushing’s disease: Changing trend from microscopic to endoscopic surgery,” was published in the journal World Neurosurgery.

Because it improves visualization and accessibility, endoscopic TSS has been gaining popularity over microscopic TSS to remove pituitary tumors in Cushing’s disease patients. Yet, although this surgery has been associated with high remission rates, whether it outperforms microscopic surgery and determining the factors affecting long-term outcomes may further ease disease recurrence after TSS.

A team with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences addressed this topic in 104 patients who underwent surgery from January 2009 to June 2017. Among these patients, 47 underwent microscopic surgery and 55 endoscopic surgery. At presentation, their ages ranged from 9 to 55 (mean age of 28). Also, patients had been experiencing Cushing’s symptoms over a mean duration of 24 months.

Eighty-seven patients showed weight gain. Hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes mellitus were among the most common co-morbidities, found in 76 and 33 patients, respectively. Nineteen patients had osteoporosis and 12 osteopenia, which refers to lower-than-normal bone mineral density.

As assessed with magnetic resonance imaging, 68 patients had a microadenoma (a tumor diameter smaller than one centimeter) and 27 had a macroadenoma (a tumor one centimeter or larger). Only two patients had an invasive pituitary adenoma.

Two patients with larger tumors were operated on transcranially (through the skull). The surgery resulted in total tumor removal in 90 cases (86.5%). A blood loss greater than 100 milliliter was more common with endoscopic than with microscopic TSS.

Ten patients developed transient diabetes inspidus, two experienced seizures after surgery, and six of nine patients with macroadenoma and visual deterioration experienced vision improvements after TSS.

The incidence of intraoperative leak of cerebrospinal fluid — the liquid surrounding the brain and spinal cord — was 23.2%, while that of post-operative leak was 7.7% and was more common in microadenoma than macroadenoma surgery (9.8% vs. 5.0%).

Seventeen patients were lost to follow-up and two died due to metabolic complications and infections. The average follow-up was shorter for endoscopic than with microscopic surgery (18 months vs. 35 months).

Among the remaining 85 cases, 65 (76.5%) experienced remission, as defined by a morning cortisol level under 5.0 μg/dL, restored circadian rhythm (the body’s internal clock, typically impaired in Cushing’s patients), and suppression of serum cortisol to below 2 μg/dl after overnight dexamethasone suppression test.

The remission rate was 54.5% in pediatric patients and was higher with endoscopic than with microscopic TSS (88.2% vs. 56.6%). Also, patients with microadenoma showed a trend toward more frequent remission than those with macroadenoma (73.2% vs. 64.3%).

Ten of the remaining 20 patients experienced disease recurrence up to 28 months after surgery. Sixteen cases revealed signs of hypopituitarism, or pituitary insufficiency, which were managed with replacement therapy.

A subsequent analysis found that morning cortisol level on day one after surgery was the only significant predictor of remission. Specifically, a one-unit increase in cortisol lowered the likelihood of remission by 7%. A cortisol level lower than 10.7 μgm/dl was calculated as predicting remission.

Overall, the study showed that “postoperative plasma cortisol level is a strong independent predictor of remission,” the researchers wrote, and that “remission provided by endoscopy is significantly better than microscopic approach.”

José is a science news writer with a PhD in Neuroscience from Universidade of Porto, in Portugal. He has also studied Biochemistry at Universidade do Porto and was a postdoctoral associate at Weill Cornell Medicine, in New York, and at The University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada. His work has ranged from the association of central cardiovascular and pain control to the neurobiological basis of hypertension, and the molecular pathways driving Alzheimer’s disease.
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Inês holds a PhD in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Lisbon, Portugal, where she specialized in blood vessel biology, blood stem cells, and cancer. Before that, she studied Cell and Molecular Biology at Universidade Nova de Lisboa and worked as a research fellow at Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologias and Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência. Inês currently works as a Managing Science Editor, striving to deliver the latest scientific advances to patient communities in a clear and accurate manner.
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José is a science news writer with a PhD in Neuroscience from Universidade of Porto, in Portugal. He has also studied Biochemistry at Universidade do Porto and was a postdoctoral associate at Weill Cornell Medicine, in New York, and at The University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada. His work has ranged from the association of central cardiovascular and pain control to the neurobiological basis of hypertension, and the molecular pathways driving Alzheimer’s disease.
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