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My approach to pathology of the pituitary gland
  1. N Y Y Al-Brahim,
  2. S L Asa
  1. Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology, University of Toronto; Toronto Medical Laboratories, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to:
 S L Asa
 Department of Pathology, University Health Network, 200 Elizabeth Street, 11th Floor, Toronto, ON, M5G 2C4, Canada; Sylvia.asa{at}


The sellar region is the site of a large number of pathological entities arising from the pituitary and adjacent anatomical structures, including brain, blood vessels, nerves and meninges. The surgical pathology of this area requires the accurate identification of neoplastic lesions, including pituitary adenoma and carcinoma, craniopharyngioma, neurological neoplasms, germ cell tumours, haematological malignancies and metastases, as well as non-neoplastic lesions such as cysts, hyperplasias and inflammatory disorders. This review provides a practical approach to the diagnosis of pituitary specimens that are sent to the pathologist at the time of surgery. The initial examination requires routine haematoxylin and eosin staining to establish whether the lesion is a primary adenohypophysial proliferation or one of the many other pathologies that occurs in this area. The most common lesions resected surgically are pituitary adenomas. These are evaluated with several special stains and immunohistochemical markers that are now available to accurately classify these pathologies. The complex subclassification of pituitary adenomas is now recognised to reflect specific clinical features and genetic changes that predict targeted treatments for patients with pituitary disorders.

  • ACTH, adrenocorticotrophic hormone
  • PRL, prolactin
  • TSH, thyrotropin

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  • Competing interests: None declared.