The pituitary gland, which sits just below the brain, may be tiny in size, but its role in the human body is huge. Referred to as the “master gland,” it produces hormones that regulate growth, blood pressure, metabolism, sexual function, how we react to stress, and much more.
If a tumor forms in the pituitary gland, it can cause the secretion of excess hormones, which can lead to a wide range of problems, including depression, diabetes, frequent bone fractures, vision loss, and other issues.
While some pituitary tumors can be treated with medication or radiation therapy, many require surgery.
“These tumors are located at the base of the skull, and luckily, just in front of them is an air-filled structure called the sphenoid sinus. To access this space, we enter through the nostrils,” says Sacit Bulent Omay, MD, a Yale Medicine neurosurgeon.
In fact, the surgery requires a team approach of an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) surgeon who specializes in skull base surgery (the term used for surgery to remove a tumor or growth at the bottom of the skull) and a neurosurgeon.
After the ENT surgeon enters the surgical space, the neurosurgeon removes the tumor using image-guided techniques. “We have an immediate visualization of where we are, and it reflects on an MRI scan that the patient had before surgery, which is a very important tool,” Dr. Omay says.
In the video above, Dr. Omay talks more about Yale Medicine’s Pituitary Tumor Program, which uses minimally invasive treatment methods and is a referral center for complex cases.