Your pituitary gland is a tiny bean-shaped gland that produces hormones involved in almost every part of your body. Unfortunately, it can also be tricky to reach this small gland because it sits at the base of your brain in an area between your ears and behind your nose.
At Cerebrum MD in Vienna, Virginia, Joseph Watson, MD, is an expert brain surgeon who provides both conventional and innovative surgical techniques, including subcapsular microdissection. This specialized technique enables him to remove pituitary tumors while preserving as much healthy gland tissue is possible.
Not only do these specialized approaches enable Dr. Watson to remove tumors while preserving as much healthy tissue as possible, but they can also make your recovery easier.
The basics of pituitary tumors
The pituitary gland may be small, but it has a big job. This gland is located on the underside of your brain, and it makes the hormones your body needs and also regulates most of your bodily functions, including blood pressure and reproduction. On top of that, it triggers other glands in your body to release hormones, including the ovaries, testes, thyroid, and adrenals.
When you have a pituitary tumor, you experience abnormal growths in the gland, which can impair its ability to function. These growths are rarely cancerous and often grow slowly. However, they can still cause serious serious side effects and complications, including:
- Irregular menstruation, infertility, and sexual dysfunction
- Unexplained weight loss or gain
- Aching joints or muscle weakness
- Depression, irritability, and fatigue
- Double vision and vision loss
Fortunately, there are several treatments for pituitary tumors, including surgery.
What to expect from pituitary surgery
When Dr. Watson performs pituitary surgery, he removes the tumor and leaves as much healthy tissue as possible. It’s important to note that even though he uses advanced procedures and precise techniques, it’s still brain surgery. Because of this, you should expect to stay at the hospital for a few days so Dr. Watson can monitor you.
Generally speaking, it’s easier to remove smaller pituitary tumors than larger or invasive types. The most common symptoms seen after surgery — which are normally temporary — include the following:
- Swelling and bruising around the face and nose
- Nasal drainage
- Decreased sense of smell
- Sinus congestion, sometimes causing headaches
- Visual changes
- Altered sense of smell and taste
You can usually expect mild to moderate discomfort for the first few days after your procedure, but Dr. Watson can help manage your pain with medication. These symptoms can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, but Dr. Watson can provide more specific insight based on the extent of your condition and the procedure required to address it.
Recovering from brain surgery
Everyone recovers at different rates from pituitary surgery. It will take time to heal, and you’ll need plenty of rest. You should plan on having someone with you for at least a week, and you can expect to be more tired than usual.
To support the healing process, Dr. Watson often recommends that you:
- Take 2-6 weeks off from work, depending on the exertion your job requires
- Wait six weeks to resume normal activities
- Skip significant physical exertion, such as weightlifting or swimming, for 12 weeks
- Avoid smoking, which can slow down healing and cause infection
- Sleep with your head elevated at least 30 degrees for 10 days
- Not put firm pressure on your face for at least four weeks
- Eat a high-fiber diet and drink plenty of fluids to avoid hard bowel movements
- Avoid submerging your surgical site in a bath, pool, or hot tub until directed
Dr. Watson also recommends that if you need to sneeze or blow your nose, that you do so with your mouth open for at least 12 weeks. You also shouldn’t drive until you have:
- Complete awareness of your surroundings
- No visual disturbances
- Regained your strength
- Stopped taking narcotic pain medications
Dr. Watson also recommends postponing travel, especially on an airplane, for six weeks.
Follow-up care after pituitary surgery
You can usually expect to schedule your first follow-up appointment with Dr. Watson 7-10 days after your procedure. During this appointment, he’ll remove sutures, evaluate the surgical site, and assess your recovery.
Within 6-8 weeks of your surgery, Dr. Watson often recommends a thorough review of your pituitary function and hormone production. With his tissue-preserving approach, you should have enough pituitary gland remaining to produce the hormones your body needs. However, you may need hormone replacement medications depending on your situation.
With our care, you can expect a smooth and speedy recovery from your pituitary surgery. To learn more about your treatment options, book an appointment over the phone with Cerebrum MD today.