Open a PDF version to print this topic

HealthInfo West Coast-Te Tai Poutini

Pituitary operation

This page outlines what happens during and in the first two weeks after the operation. You'll get more information about your pituitary condition and any long-term treatment from your endocrinologist.

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

During 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 either by 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'll use an operating microscope to see the pituitary tumour and remove it. Once they've removed the tumour, they'll 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'll 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'll 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'll have discharge from your nose for some weeks.

Important

Don't blow your nose for three weeks after the operation. Make sure your mouth is open when you sneeze.

While you're in hospital, we'll record how much fluid you drink and urine 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'll have frequent blood tests. Before discharge you'll 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'll need one or two weeks off after going home.

As you get back to normal over this time, you'll be able to 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 you can't drive.

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. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed March 2020.

See also:

Overview of surgery

Page reference: 70672

Review key: HIPTS-70672