What is a Hypophysectomy?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 April 2020
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Sometimes referred to as hypophsis, a hypophysectomy is a surgical procedure in which the pituitary gland is removed partially or completely. This type of surgery is used mainly when there is some sort of tumor embedded in the gland, or as a means of treating Cushing’s syndrome that has impacted the function of the organ. Considered a serious procedure, a hypophysectomy is usually performed only when all other treatment options have been exhausted.

Before a patient is cleared for hypophysectomy surgery, he or she must undergo testing in order to assure general health and to determine the best course of action for the procedure. This often involves seeing a neurosurgeon who will make the final assessment and schedule the surgery if necessary. This evaluation can sometimes be done on an outpatient basis, but can also be conducted during a short hospital stay.

Preparing for the actual hypophysectomy is not unlike preparation for any invasive procedure. The patient is instructed to not eat or drink anything after midnight of the day before the surgery is scheduled. As part of the pre-operative instructions, the patient is sometimes advised to begin practicing breathing through the mouth, since the nasal cavities will be packed after the procedure is completed. Finally, anesthesia is administered and the patient is rendered unconscious before the operation commences.


Assuming there are no complications, the hypophysectomy should take no more than two hours to complete. At the end of the procedure, the nose is packed to help staunch the bleeding. This is followed by an additional two hours in a recovery area, where the patient is observed closely for any post hypophysectomy complications. If none appear, the patient is returned to his or her room.

Recovery time depends on the extent of the hypophysectomy procedure itself, and how well the patient responds to the surgery. All efforts are made to save at least a portion of the pituitary gland. When this is possible, the recovery is usually a short period of time, with the patient able to return home for recuperation after a few days.

If complications such as infection take place, the patient may remain in the hospital for treatment and observation for a couple of weeks before being released. Follow-up care is determined by the attending physician, and may include drug therapy to compensate for the minimized function of the remaining portion of the gland. Assuming that any tumors found in or around the gland are completely removed, there is an excellent chance for a full recovery with no long-term complications.


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