Endocrine Abstracts (2008) 16 P337

High prevalence of pituitary adenomas: a cross-sectional study in the city of Banbury (Oxfordshire)

Alberto Fernandez, Niki Karavitaki & John AH Wass


Endocrinology Department, Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism, Churchill Hospital, Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK.


Background: Pituitary adenomas (PA) are considered very rare conditions, with an estimated prevalence of 25 cases/100 000 inhabitants. However, community-based studies on the prevalence of PA are currently scant.

Aim: To ascertain the prevalence of PA and the characteristics of the patients diagnosed with them in a large population of inhabitants.

Methods: A survey on the GP surgeries of Banbury (Oxfordshire, UK) covering 89 334 inhabitants was carried out following approval from the Local Research Ethics Committee. Finally, 14 out of 16 approached GP Surgeries agreed to participate allowing the inclusion of 81 149 inhabitants. Patients were initially identified through IT search at the Surgeries using relevant search terms. The notes of the selected subjects were scrutinized to confirm the diagnosis.

Results: We found 64 cases (43 females; median age at diagnosis (MAG) 37 years (range 16–74)), and the prevalence was 78.87 cases/100 000 inhabitants. The series comprised 36 prolactinomas (56%), 7 patients with acromegaly (11%), 11 non-functioning adenomas (NFA) (17%), 1 Cushing’s disease (1.6%) and 9 pituitary masses of unknown functional status (UF) (14%). The median symptomatic period before diagnosis in non-apoplectic PA was 1.7 years (48 patients, range 0.5–15 years). MAG and sex distribution were: prolactinoma (89% female, MAG 32 years), NFA (18% female, MAG 54 years), acromegaly (43% female, 47 years), Cushing’s disease (0% female, MAG 57 years), UF (66% female, MAG 39 years).

Conclusions: This is the first cross-sectional, community study on the epidemiology of PA performed in a large population of the United Kingdom. Our prevalence is three times higher than previous estimates, and prolonged symptomatic periods before diagnosis were common. PA affects patients at a young, economically active population. Prolactinomas are far more common in females, while acromegaly and NFA are more common in males. Increased awareness of these treatable conditions is important to reduce diagnostic delay.

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