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HealthInfo Canterbury

Pituitary operation

This page outlines what happens during and after the operation. You will get other information about the pituitary gland and any long-term treatment or follow-up.

The operation

Pituitary operation trans sphenoidal

You may be admitted to hospital one day before your operation. The operation usually takes one to two hours.

As you will have a general anaesthetic you won't be allowed any food or drink from midnight the night before surgery. You will also have antibiotics around the time of the operation.

Your pituitary gland (and the tumour) sits in your pituitary fossa, a small hollow in the base of your skull, about 5 cm behind the top of your nose. The neurosurgeon reaches the gland and tumour by either making a narrow passage from a small cut behind your upper lip, just above your top teeth, or through one nostril.

The neurosurgeon will make a small hole in the bone of your skull to open into the pituitary fossa. They will use an operating microscope to see the pituitary tumour and remove it. Once they have removed the tumour they will seal the small hole with a small piece of tissue taken from the side of one of your thighs.

Your nose will be packed with gauze at the end of the operation. The stitches in the cut behind your upper lip will dissolve by themselves, but you will need to have the stitches in your thigh cut removed one week later.

After the operation

Most people are up and about the following day, and eating normally. Your nose-packs will be removed on about day three. Your mouth may be dry for a few days as you will have to breathe through your mouth. It's also common to have a headache. You can take paracetamol for this. Your top teeth may be slightly numb for a few weeks. You will have a mucky nose for some weeks.


Please do not blow your nose for three weeks after the operation. Make sure your mouth is open when you sneeze.

While you are in hospital we will record how much fluid you drink and urine (wee) you pass. Sometimes people pass a lot of urine and need an injection or nasal spray of a hormone to control this.

During your stay you will have frequent blood tests. Before discharge you will get a note for your doctor, instructions on any tablets you need and arrangements for follow-up.

Time in hospital

As long as all goes well you should be in hospital about one week.

Time off work

You will need one or two weeks off after going home. As you get back to normal over this time, you can do most things you feel able to, including air travel, sex and exercise. Avoid any activities that involve large pressure changes, like scuba diving and parachuting, for three months. If the pituitary problem has affected your eyesight it may mean not driving.

What to look out for

Things hardly ever go wrong, but these things need action if they happen.

Written by the Departments of Endocrinology and Neurosurgery, Christchurch Hospital. Endorsed by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed August 2015.

See also:

Overview of surgery

Page reference: 70672

Review key: HIPTS-70672