Free Editor Choice: Headache in Patients With Pituitary Lesions: A Longitudinal Cohort Study

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Headache is a presenting feature in 37% to 70% of patients with pituitary tumor. Other pituitary lesions may also present with headache, and together these lesions account for about 20% of all primary brain lesions. Although pituitary lesions have been associated with headache, the exact nature of the relationship remains undefined. It is not always clear whether the presenting headache is an unrelated primary headache, a lesion-induced aggravation of a preexisting primary headache, or a separate secondary headache related to the lesion.

OBJECTIVE: To characterize headache in patients referred to a multidisciplinary neuroendocrine clinic with suspected pituitary lesions and to assess changes in headache in those who underwent surgery.

METHODS: We used a self-administered survey of headache characteristics completed by patients upon presentation and after any pituitary surgical procedure.

RESULTS: One hundred thirty-three participants completed the preoperative questionnaire (response rate of 99%). The overall prevalence of headache was 63%. Compared to patients without headache, the group with headache was more likely to be female (P = .001), younger (P = .001), and to have had a prior headache diagnosis (P < .001). Seventy-two percent of patients reported headache localized to the anterior region of the head. Fifty-one patients with headache underwent transsphenoidal pituitary surgery. Headache was not associated with increased odds of having surgery (odds ratio, 0.90). At 3 months, 81% of surgically treated patients with headache who completed the postoperative questionnaire (21/26) reported improvement or resolution of headaches. No patient who completed the postoperative questionnaire (44/84) reported new or worsened headache.

CONCLUSION: Frequent, disabling headaches are common in patients with pituitary lesions referred for neuroendocrine consultation, especially in younger females with a preexisting headache disorder. Surgery in this group was associated with headache improvement or resolution in the majority and was not found to cause or worsen headaches. Suggestions for revision of the International Classification of Headache Disorders diagnostic criteria pertaining to pituitary disorders are supported by these findings.

From “Headache in Patients With Pituitary Lesions: A Longitudinal Cohort Study” by Rizzoli P, et al.