Clinical Study and Systematic Review of Pituitary Microadenomas vs. Macroadenomas in Cushing’s Disease: Does Size Matter?

Amit Akirov, Ilan Shimon, Maria Fleseriu, Idit Dotan, Yossi Manisterski, Nirit Aviran‐barak, Varda Nadler, Sandra Alboim, Tzipora Shochat, Gloria Tsvetov, Dania Hirsch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Reports on clinical and biochemical differences between adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)‐secreting pituitary microadenomas and macroadenomas are limited and inconsistent. Objective: Compare clinical and biochemical characteristics of patients with corticotroph microadenomas and macroadenomas and assess predictive factors for biochemical response to dynamic testing for Cushing’s disease (CD) in a clinical trial and a systematic review. A second aim was to evaluate differences between macroadenomas with and without cavernous and sphenoid sinus invasion. Methods: Retrospective charts review of patients with CD, treated at Rabin Medical Center between 2000 and 2020 or at Maccabi Healthcare Services in Israel between 2005 and 2017. Clinical and biochemical factors were compared between patients with corticotroph microadenomas and macroadenomas. We have also performed a systematic review of all studies (PRISMA guidelines) comparing corticotroph microadenomas with macroadenomas up to November 31, 2021. Results: The cohort included 105 patients (82 women, 78%; mean age, 41.5 ± 14.5 years), including 80 microadenomas (mean size, 5.2 ± 2.2 mm) and 25 macroadenomas (mean size, 18.0 ± 7.7 mm). Other baseline characteristics were similar between groups. Most common presentation suggestive for hypercortisolemia among patients with both micro‐ and macroadenomas were weight gain (46.3% vs. 48.0%, p = NS) and Cushingoid features (27.5% vs. 20.0%, p = NS). Mean 24 h urinary free cortisol (5.2 ± 5.4 × ULN vs. 7.8 ± 8.7 × ULN) and serum cortisol following low‐dose dexamethasone (372.0 ± 324.5 vs. 487.6 ± 329.8 nmol/L), though higher for macroadenomas, were not significant. Levels of ACTH were greater for macroadenomas (1.9 ± 1.2×ULN vs. 1.3 ± 0.8 × ULN, respectively, p = 0.01). Rates of recurrent/persistent disease were similar, as were rates of post‐operative adrenal insufficiency and duration of post‐operative glucocorticoid replacement. Macroadenomas with sphenoid or cavernous sinus invasion were associated with higher ACTH, 24 h free urinary cortisol, and serum cortisol following low‐dose dexamethasone, compared with suprasellar or intrasellar macroadenomas. Conclusions: While ACTH‐secreting macroadenomas exhibit higher plasma ACTH than microadenomas, there was no association between tumor size with cortisol hypersecretion or clinical features of hypercortisolemia. Though overall rare, increased awareness is needed for patients with CD with tumor extension in the cavernous or sphenoid sinus, which displays increased biochemical burden, highlighting that extent/location of the adenoma may be more important than size per se. Our systematic review, the first on this topic, highlights differences and similarities with our study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1558
JournalJournal of Clinical Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022


  • Corticotroph adenoma
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Pituitary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Clinical Study and Systematic Review of Pituitary Microadenomas vs. Macroadenomas in Cushing’s Disease: Does Size Matter?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this