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Whether you already have your pituitary surgery in NJ scheduled or are still in the treatment planning phase, you likely have a number of questions. While it’s best to discuss them with your personal doctor so you can understand how these things apply to your individual case, it can be helpful to arm yourself with a general understanding before that conversation takes place. The information below covers some of the common questions patients have before pituitary surgery in NJ, such as risks, recovery and costs, as well as other topics.

What is a Pituitary Tumor?

A pituitary tumor, also called a pituitary adenoma, is a benign brain tumor that arises from the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is a small structure deep in the brain that plays an important role in many of the body’s functions, such as thyroid regulation, growth and development and cortisol production. The gland itself is located just behind the middle back of the nose in an area of the skull called the sella turcica.

A pituitary tumor can become problematic and require treatment if it grows large enough to impinge on other structures and/or it is made up of cells that produce excess hormone. Because the pituitary gland has so many cell types and functions, patients can experience a wide range of symptoms from the hormones themselves or because of the pressure being placed on nearby blood vessels, nerves or brain tissue.

What are the Surgical Treatment Options?

Generally speaking, the treatment goal of pituitary surgery is to remove as much of your tumor as possible. Sometimes your surgery will need to be followed-up with an adjunct therapy, such as Gamma Knife Radiosurgery, to eliminate any remaining cells. Surgery takes place in a hospital setting while you are asleep and is performed by a neurosurgeon.

Depending on the size and location of your pituitary tumor, there are different ways the neurosurgeon can access the site. This is the primary difference in the different surgical treatment options. Some patients will be candidates for a less invasive approach, called a transnasal procedure. During this surgery, the neurosurgeon uses an microscope to access the tumor through a small incision at the back of the nasal passage, eliminating the need for a craniotomy. However, not all tumors are accessible this way if they are especially large and/or inaccessible.

The second method is to perform a craniotomy, where the neurosurgeon temporarily removes a small section of skull to access the tumor, then replaces the bone and closes the soft tissues using sutures or staples. This method is typically used for large pituitary tumors or those that are difficult to reach.

What is Recovery Like?

Pituitary tumor surgery takes place within a hospital while you are asleep. Immediately following your surgery, you will wake up in a post-anesthesia care unit, where your doctor will monitor your vital signs. Once you are fully awake and have stabilized, you will be transferred to your recovery room. Most patients will spend about a week recovering in the hospital before returning home.

As you recover at home, you will be placed on activity restrictions, including heavy lifting, exercise and work. Your doctor will gradually lift these restrictions as your body heals. Most patients will spend 6-8 weeks on activity restrictions following pituitary surgery, though this depends on your specific procedure and individual health factors.

What are the Risks of Surgery?

Before recommending pituitary surgery in NJ, your surgeon will consider all of the risks and benefits as they relate to your case. If your doctor has recommended surgery, you can rest assured that the benefits outweigh the risks in your individual case, and those benefits and risks may vary from patient to patient.

Generally speaking, there are risks associated with any form of surgery. These include reactions to the general anesthesia, bleeding, infection and blood clots. There are also risks specific to pituitary surgery specifically, and there are further particular risks based on whether your neurosurgeon uses a craniotomy or transnasal surgical approach. A transnasal approach has the potential for a spinal fluid leak through the nose. A craniotomy carries a higher risk of damage to nerves and delicate areas of the brain. However, because some tumors cannot be accessed using a transnasal approach, the benefits of a craniotomy procedure outweigh the risks.

What are the Costs of Surgery?

To help avoid any surprises during your recovery, it can be helpful to understand the costs associated with pituitary surgery in NJ. Besides the procedure itself, there are some less obvious costs that you will want to keep in mind. These include:

  • Anesthesiologist fees, if not included
  • Imaging fees, if not included
  • Time missed from work
  • Costs associated with help during your recovery, such as child care, house cleaning and transportation for running errands
  • Physical therapy or other rehabilitation to help with symptoms, if required

Keep the Conversation Going

If you still have questions regarding your upcoming pituitary surgery in NJ, be sure to continue the discussion with your personal doctor. He or she will be able to help you relate the information found here to your individual condition to answer any questions you may have. Because all patients are different, it is important to keep the conversation going to learn as much as you can about your specific case and what you can expect before, during and after your pituitary tumor surgery.