The extent to which cognitive dysfunction is related to specific brain abnormalities in patients treated for pituitary macroadenoma is unclear. Therefore, we compared brain abnormalities seen on Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) in patients treated for nonfunctioning pituitary macroadenoma (NFA) with or without impairments in cognitive functioning.
In this cross-sectional design, a cohort of 43 NFA patients was studied at the University Medical Center Groningen. White matter lesions (WMLs), cerebral atrophy, (silent) brain infarcts and abnormalities of the temporal lobes and hippocampi were assessed on pre-treatment and post-treatment MRI scans. Post-treatment cognitive examinations were performed using a verbal memory and executive functioning test. We compared our patient cohort with large reference populations representative of the Dutch population.
One or more impairments on both cognitive tests were frequently observed in treated NFA patients. No treatment effects were found with regard to the comparison between patients with and without impairments in executive functioning. Interestingly, in patients with one or more impairments on verbal memory function, treatment with radiotherapy had been given more frequently (74% in the impaired group versus 40% in the unimpaired group, P=0.025). Patients with or without any brain abnormality on MRI did not differ in verbal memory or executive functioning.
Brain abnormalities on MRI are not observed more frequently in treated NFA patients with impairments compared to NFA patients without impairments in verbal memory or executive functioning. Conversely, the absence of brain abnormalities on MRI does not exclude impairments in cognition.