This Health Facts will describe surgery that
is completed through the nose, for a problem
at the base of the brain, such as a tumor.
One example is a pituitary tumor.
What is the Pituitary Gland?
The pituitary gland, a pea-sized gland with
two lobes, controls how hormones are
produced in your body Found at the base of
the brain (behind the sphenoid sinus of the
nose), this gland is also near the optic
nerves. This causes many of those with
pituitary tumors to have problems with
What Happens During Surgery?
The pituitary gland is often reached through
one of the nostrils. If this cannot be done,
an incision may be made in the upper gum,
under the top lip. The surgeon then uses an
endoscope to get to the tumor.
A small piece of bone is removed to expose
the pituitary gland and the tumor. Using a
microscope to guide his way, the surgeon
removes the tumor. If it is too large or stuck
to important structures, the entire tumor may
not be removed.
Fat from the lower abdomen is sometimes
used to close and seal the open area. This
will leave a small incision where the fat was
Samples of the tumor are sent to the
pathology lab to decide the tumor type.
These tumors are almost always non-
cancerous and very slow growing. A final
report will be ready in five working days,
and you will be told when your doctor will
share this with you.
After the Surgery
You will remain in the recovery room one to
two hours until fully awake, at which time
you will be taken to the Neurosurgery
Intensive care unit.
, How long you stay, will depend on what
surgery you had. . During this time, nurses
and doctors will be checking your arm and
leg strength, pupil size, and level of
alertness. They will be keeping track of the
amount of fluid you drink and excrete. You
can expect to have a catheter draining the
bladder the first day, an IV in an arm vein
until able to take enough fluid by mouth, and
leg wraps to prevent clots forming in the
A cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) leak may occur
as a result of this surgery. In this case, a
small tube (lumbar drain) is inserted into the
lower back to drain the fluid into a bag.
This drain will decrease the spinal fluid
pressure and allow the area to heal.
You may feel more pressure in the head or
have a headache. Pain medicine will be
ordered and ready if this occurs.
There may be nose stuffiness for a few
weeks. It may be helpful to do gentle nasal
washing with sterile saline to clear out blood
and mucus. Sterile saline may be purchased
at your local drugstore.
You will be asked to get out of bed the same
day or the day after, and to slowly increase
your activity in order to be walking in the
halls before discharge. Walking is the best
You should avoid bending from the waist or
straining to lift for 6 weeks. Bending and
straining could cause a CSF leak.
For 6 weeks, you should avoid coughing,
blowing the nose, sneezing, drinking with
a straw, and straining while having a
bowel movement. These things increase
pressure in the head and may lead to an
opening at the site (causing a CSF leak). If
there is a need to sneeze, you should keep
your mouth open to avoid pressure. To
prevent the need to strain at stool, you
should eat foods with fiber, drink at least 8
8-ounce glasses of fluid each day, and use
stool softeners as needed.
You will be offered clear liquids first,
returning slowly to a normal diet as you are
able to take solid food. If there is an oral
incision, soft foods may be best. Rinsing the
mouth gently after eating will keep the
incision clean. You should not brush over
this area with a toothbrush.
Depending on how you are feeling and the
level of fatigue, plan to take 2-4 weeks off
work and have someone help with
housework for a few days. The amount of
time needed for recovery depends on the
An MRI will be scheduled for the same day
of your visit.
Some patients will be scheduled for an MRI
and a blood test will be done before seeing
the doctor. Because this surgery may disturb
your hormone levels, you may need to take
hormones for some time. You may also
need to be followed by an eye doctor and an
endocrine doctor as well as the surgeon.
When to Call the Doctor
ξ Increased amount of nasal drainage
ξ Fever greater than 100.5 θF
ξ Foul taste in the mouth
ξ Signs of a CSF leak (often made
worse with movement)
- constant drainage down the back
of the throat
- clear fluid draining from the nose
- nausea or vomiting
ξ Signs of sinus infection (in a few
weeks or months)
- Green nasal drainage
- Increased nasal stuffiness
ξ Signs of a low blood sodium level
- general weakness
If you have any questions or concerns once
you are home, please call the Neurosurgery
clinic. The clinic is open Monday – Friday
8:00am - 5:00pm. The phone number is
(608) 263-7502. After hours, this phone
number will reach the paging operator.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 8/2016 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing HF#5311.