A 30 years old female was evaluated 6 months back for rapid weight gain and amenorrhea and found to have diabetes, hypertension, and obstructive sleep apnea. She presented with acute onset of a severe headache and syncope.
O/E She is afebrile, BP: 130/80 (80/60 mmHg on standing), signs of meningeal irritation are positive. She has ptosis of the right eye and pupil is deviated downwards and laterally. BSR is 56 mg/dl. ABGs show chronic compensated respiratory acidosis.
What is the most likely cause of this acute presentation?
What is the underlying diagnosis?
What are the important investigations required to confirm your diagnosis?
How will you manage this case?
Key for the above questions is given below. candidates should try to solve the questions prior to looking at the key.
Question 1: What is the most likely cause of this acute presentation?
Answer: Pituitary apoplexy
Question 2: What is the underlying diagnosis?
Answer: Pituitary adenoma
Question 3: What are the important investigations required to confirm your diagnosis?
Answer: MRI of the pituitary gland and pituitary hormonal assay
Question 4: How will you manage this case?
Answer: Surgical decompression/ resection of the adenoma and hormonal replacement therapy
A brief discussion about pituitary apoplexy
Pituitary apoplexy is the sudden onset of hemorrhage into the pituitary gland. Hemorrhage into the pituitary gland can be seen in bleeding disorders and aneurysms but it is most commonly seen in patients with pituitary adenoma.
Sudden bleeding into the pituitary fossa causes pressure symptoms. Pressure on the third (oculomotor) cranial nerve is manifested by the sudden onset of a severe headache and diplopia (double vision).
On the other hand, pressure on the pituitary gland can lead to hypopituitarism. All pituitary hormones can become deficient but the most important hormone which needs emergency treatment is cortisol deficiency.
Hypocortisolism is secondary to ACTH deficiency in this case. Reduced cortisol is manifested by hypotension and hypoglycemia.
Treatment of Pituitary Apoplexy
Treatment is aimed at surgical decompression. Surgical decompression can rapidly alleviate symptoms of a headache and double vision. This can also improve the pituitary function.
As the blood is reabsorbed, improvement in the hormonal profile can be seen which may be seen in weeks to months. High dose steroids can also be used to treat pituitary apoplexy.
The hormonal profile should be tested after six weeks of the episode and managed accordingly.